Skip to content
Coping with Exams – For Children and Parents

Coping with Exams – For Children and Parents

Exam time is a stressful period for both children and parents. Children are expected to perform well and this pressure can have a negative impact on how a child both performs and feels. For many children with special needs, it can be a confusing time and lack of preparation can stop your child achieving their true potential.

SpecialKids.Company

Difficulties Faced by Kids with ASD – And Tips to Help

Anxiety: Exam time means a change in routine for children and this can be upsetting for kids with autism. Your child may feel increasingly anxious with changes in schedules and timings of exams. Plan ahead and make sure your child understands the upcoming exam timetable.

Lack of Motivation: Kids with ASD may struggle to see the point of exams. They may feel that they know what they are being examined on and therefore don’t need to be examined. As such, your child may not revise and fail to take exams seriously. Explain why exams are held and how they can help your child.

Understanding Exam Questions: Children with ASD often have trouble understanding what exam questions require. They may struggle to see the meaning in the question and interpret it literally or simply differently to how it is intended. See if you can get hold of old exam papers and take a look at how the questions are phrased. Does your child understand them as they are intended?

Sensory Issues: Your child may not be comfortable being in a new and different environment for exams (i.e. a large exam hall). You can ask the school to provide an alternative space for your child to sit the exam.

Finishing Exams on Time: Managing time during an exam is often difficult for kids with ASD, as is maintaining focus for extended periods. Ask your child’s school about exam support teachers who can prompt your child to help keep them on task.

SpecialKids.Company

Special Arrangements your Child is entitled to

Special arrangements can be provided but must be done after a consultation with a dedicated teacher or school psychologist, in line with the regulation of the exam board. These special arrangements can include a computer or an amanuensis (somebody to write for your child). Other arrangements include extra time and separate exam rooms.

Tips for Parents

Brilliant minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds

GCSEs and A-Levels do not accurately assess the intellect of children with ASD. Children with autism are often the smartest in the class but do not respond to the same teaching and testing methods as other children. Know that your child’s intelligence is not defined by exams.

Encourage Relaxation

Encourage deep breathing at home that can be practised before entering an exam. This will calm nerves and anxiety and help keep your child focused. Healthy eating is important, as is regular exercise to burn of nervous energy.

Create an Exam Timetable

Create a clear timetable and stick it up in the house. This will allow your child to become used to the idea, reducing the anxiety associated with disruptions to their routine.

Talk to the School

Don’t be afraid of talking to your school about special arrangements and advice. You won’t be the first and they should have a protocol for making special arrangements. Make sure you do this ahead of time though, as there are deadlines for organising special arrangements as set by the exam boards.

Useful Resources

Young Minds Guide for Coping with Exam Stress

Anxiety UK’s Guide to Coping with Anxiety

Irish Autism Action’s Guide to Exam Stress

Previous article How to help your child set New Year's goals