Help your ADHD Child Conquer Test Anxiety
All students occasionally show test anxiety, but research suggests that children with ADHD and other learning disabilities are especially likely to experience anxiety before and during test taking. These students may have cognitive difficulties that interfere with test-taking abilities, negative self-concept as a result of poor academic performance in the past, and lack of study skills needed to feel adequately prepared for tests.
Here are seven strategies to help your ADHD-diagnosed student reduce test-taking anxiety:
Encourage your child to recognize symptoms of anxiety. Oftentimes, children are not aware of how their bodily responses might affect their ability to stay focused on the task at hand (such as test-taking). If your child is feeling anxious or nervous, he might begin to sweat, feel like he has “butterflies” in his stomach, feel nauseous or start to shake. Encourage your child to be aware that these are physiological symptoms that are manifestations of his anxiety and help him come up with ways to acknowledge that he is not sick and there is nothing wrong with him but that these are simply ways that his body is reacting to his anxiety.
Help your child to practice positive self-talk. As the parent of an ADHD-diagnosed child, it’s likely that you’ve heard your child say things like “I’m not smart enough to get good grades” or “I’ll never pass this test”. Help your child to reframe his thoughts by teaching him to use positive self-talk. The concept of self-talk comes from the practice of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which has been found to be a highly successful form of therapy for reducing ADHD-related symptoms. Help him to come up with some positive statements such as “I am prepared and my job is to do the best I can.”When your child starts to feel anxious about the test, he can repeat these statements to calm his anxiety and encourage his self-esteem.
Utilize practice tests. This will help him get used to the process of test taking. If your child has practiced, he will feel more confident about the actual test. Many teachers will offer practice tests for students to take home and sometimes (particularly for math courses) there are practice tests at the end of each chapter in the textbook. Or use a free online test generator such as Testmoz. Use a timer and try to recreate testing conditions to the best of your ability (such as having your child sit at a desk to take the test) to help it feel more “real”.
Ensure your child knows test-taking techniques. Examples include working backwards on multiple-choice tests by first eliminating answers that your child knows are wrong, skipping and coming back to questions where your child is unsure about the answer, and understanding the mechanics of true/false questions (such as the answer will seldom be true if it says “always” or “never”). Our coaches at HomeworkCoach can help your child to learn test-taking strategies that will help increase his chances of being academically successful.
Burn off some energy before the test. If your child has the opportunity to do some exercises before testing that will tire out his body somewhat, he is less likely to experience the rush of adrenaline that often results from anxiety. If your child cannot exercise before the test, encourage him to do deep-breathing exercises to release neurohormones that inhibit stress-response hormones (such as adrenaline).
Offer encouragement and gentle correction. Because ADHD-diagnosed children often have lowered self-esteem and self-concept, your encouragement can be a huge help in boosting their self-confidence. When your child performs well on a test, celebrate and reinforce his good work by telling him “I am so proud of you! You really did a great job on that test and I’m sure it’s because you worked so hard.” Not only does this help your child feel that you are happy with his performance, but it also helps to make him responsible for his own success by stating that his good grade is a result of his hard work. When your child does not do as well as he would like, gently discuss what went wrong and then help to come up with a strategy that can help him to perform better on future assignments.
Take advantage of test taking accommodations. As previously discussed on this blog, students who are diagnosed with ADHD are entitled to certain accommodations as a result of federal laws that protect students with disabilities and ensure equal educational opportunities for such students. Many ADHD-diagnosed students experience test-taking anxiety because they are worried they will run out of time on tests or have difficulty concentrating when other activities are going on around them. Talk to the teachers about how they can help your child to have a test-taking environment that will help him to be more academically successful.
Your ADHD-diagnosed child may still experience some symptoms of anxiety prior to taking a test, but consistently applied, these tips and strategies should help to significantly reduce test anxiety.