I have had two students so far with a documented disability called dyscalculia. However, I am a strong proponent in the idea that our primary goal as educators should be the development of something called a growth mindset in our students.
I am hoping to hear from someone who is familiar with both of these topics. I am not interested in any statements about "kids these days" or the "sad state of our society".
The most specific definition of dyscalculia I have found is difficulty acquiring basic arithmetic skills, but if that is the working definition, then students would not request extra time on exams in classes that allow sophisticated calculators. In my experience, the students and staff have all applied the term much more generally, which is what you will find if you look outside medical sources, for example:
Kids with dyscalculia also have trouble remembering math facts. Or they may understand the logic behind math, but not how or when to apply what they know to solve math problems.
If you go deeper, you find even more aggressive statements like "Developmental dyscalculia tends to run in families, possibly because of a genetic predisposition."
This all conflicts pretty directly with the idea of a growth mindset, because the student is told by medical professionals, then their parents, and then support staff on campus that they are intrinsically bad at math and even that it runs in the family.
I find that most of my success in math education comes from instilling a growth mindset: communicating the idea that anyone can improve at math with work and focus. But when I am directly contradicting all the other students' authority figures, I do not see a way to succeed. The pattern so far is that I cannot advance the student toward a growth mindset, and they inevitably fail their course of study.
What can/should a math educator do in this situation?
Edit: A "growth mindset" can be defined this way, see this article:
In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.
In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.