It’s that time of year again. It’s spring, and things are growing—including the stresses on you and your child. Teachers are increasing the amount of new material they present, trying to cover all the curriculum before the end of school. Statewide and school achievement exams are given, larger research reports are assigned, and final exams appear on the horizon.
Your child’s performance and skills are going to be measured in many ways. Standardized testing alone takes weeks of class time, and before that teachers spend hours teaching children exactly how to behave during the long days of testing. It’s high stakes all around–one long Navy SEAL survival course from March until June.
For children who struggle with learning—in any area—this means expectations that they may not be able to meet. For parents of those children, there’s the need to support your child.
No matter which standardized tests are given in your child’s school, this additional pressure is probably enough to raise his or her anxiety to a significant degree. What can a parent do?
- For children in elementary grades, parents should downplay the importance of these tests. They won’t determine whether your child moves on to the next grade (what most children worry about). Tell them to do what they can. Tell them their special education services are what really matter, since that is how they get the help they really need.
- For children in middle and high school, talk about their worries about testing. Take their worries seriously, and communicate with the school to address as many as possible. Again, reassure your child that the tests don’t determine grade placement.
- Support your children verbally, by telling them you trust them to do their best. Let them know that the tests are not designed for children with learning difficulties, a really slow work pace, problems with writing, or poor attention spans.
- Try to be sure your child gets enough sleep, a protein breakfast, a high-energy snack (send extras), and some new pencils in their backpack for emergencies.
- Sit with your child and review the testing accommodations in his or her IEP. Help your child understand, as much as possible, what help they will get and what questions they can ask.
- Communicate with the school to be sure they are prepared to provide the accommodations for your child. Send in the list, as you understand it. Ask if your list is correct.
- Make sure both your child and the school understand the difference between an accommodation and giving your child an answer.
At the end of a testing day, talk with your child about the experience. Plan a treat for the end of the week—for both of you!