Testing, Testing…Is This Thing On? Test Anxiety and Learning Disabilities

Testing, Testing...Is This Thing On? Test Anxiety and Learning Disabilities 1

Now in Grade 3, my son has his standardized tests coming up.  He’s been expressing some anxiety about the test for over a year now.  I really can’t blame him.  I’ve gone through some of the test prep books, and some of the answers confused me – and I have my Bachelors Degree.

I understand the reasons behind the assessments.  The powers that be want to figure out if the curriculum is appropriate.  If the teachers are teaching what they’re supposed to.

But for someone with a learning disability, just taking a pop quiz is scary – but the idea of three days of intense testing is even more daunting.  

Given we were already having some discussions about Puck’s recent IEP review, it was the perfect time to talk about the test.  

I assured him that his issues have been taken into account.  We went through all of the accommodations the school has agreed:

  1. He can write the test in a quiet room to take away any distraction.  He will be writing in the special ed room with (maximum) 4 other kids.
  2. The questions will be read to him and he will answer on a computer, with a scribe if necessary.
  3. There will be support in the room.
  4. He can take as long as he needs.  And breaks if necessary.

He was visibly relieved that we’d considered his situation and put these steps in place.  He was worried when I told him about the computer because his typing skills aren’t up to snuff yet.  But he was happy when I told him a scribe would be ready.  And I reminded him (again) that he needs to advocate for himself.  If he needs help, he needs to ask.  I’m hoping, given the setting, he’ll feel more comfortable.  Because I know when he’s back in the regular class, he doesn’t want to look “stupid” (his word) in front of his friends.

I also told him that I’d work as hard as I could with him to get him ready for the test.  From past experience, I know that some of the trick of this type of testing is being ready for the type of questions and knowing where to look for the answers.  So we’ll work to figure that out.

We then talked about “success” and what that means.  I wanted him to know that the score doesn’t matter to me.  Quite frankly, we won’t even see it for several months after the testing has completed.  He’ll already be in Grade 4 when we receive them.  

For me, success means he gets through the testing feeling confident.  

“I don’t care what your score is.  I will be proud of you if you try your hardest and don’t quit.”

I think he needed some time to ruminate on what we discussed.  But a few hours later he asked if we could study every night.  I agreed.  And gave him a big hug, resting my chin on his head.  A little tear in my eye.

I don’t need to wait for the test to be over.  I’m already proud.

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