It’s that time of the year. The End-of-Grade Tests loom large and special needs kids are not the only ones who dread the upcoming weeks. Instead of debating the pros and cons of testing, I’m offering some survival tips. Here’s a starting point.
1. Listen and watch. Before you jump in with a hundred reasons why your child will survive the tests, listen to their test talk, their fears and worries. Watch their behavior. There’s a place for dialog or responses to anxiety, but start with an assessment of their reality. It’s easy for all of us to project our own uncertainties onto kids. It’s also easy to make light of something we don’t fully appreciate.
2. Ask for specifics, using your child’s language. “What is most boring about the tests?” “What are you most afraid of?” “What do you hate most about the tests?”
3. If you can come up with a single, practical response to their greatest fear, do it, but don’t belabor the point with too many words. Give them time to process your suggestion and come back to it later: “So, what did you think about ignoring the kids working around you?”
4. Take your time. It’s better to spread these conversations over a period of time instead of one onslaught against Test Anxiety. Kids will get even more anxious if you start an intense, hour-long review of everything that relates to tests.
5. Put testing in its place. I have observed that many schools, after a year of teaching to the test while pretending it didn’t matter, have ratcheted up their test fervor to amazing heights. Therefore, you are already at a disadvantage if you are attempting to put testing in its proper place. If you spend every moment talking about and providing last-minute strategies and encouragement for tests, you will deepen the child’s perception that this is the most important event of the school year. It is NOT the most important event in the school year. “But my child may fail!” “He’ll feel stupid!” If you are only now just considering the trials facing your special needs child, you’re a bit late. If your child has consistently performed below grade level expectations, nothing has changed. Most likely, this test will not measure the actual growth your child has made this year. Progress on IEP goals should be a better indicator of growth.
More child-specific suggestions in my next post on test survival.