Thursday, May 17, 2012

Testing Kids with Special Needs

Testing has started at school for kids in grades 3-5. This standardized test (EOG's) is something that teachers have been preparing kids for at least the last 4 months. Most children have no problem with these tests, but for a child with special needs, this type of test can really upset them.

Last year, when Ethan took the EOG's for the first time, we knew we were going to have to go about testing a different way. Based on his performance on Benchmarks, we knew that Ethan got highly distracted by the other kids in the room...even if they weren't doing anything! We (being myself, his teacher, his tutors, and his Speech Therapist...everyone on his IEP team) decided that the only thing to do would be to have him tested separately. This was a great success for him and he did spectacular on the EOG's.

Over the past 2 years, I have learned a couple of tricks to share with any other parent/teacher preparing a special needs, or even an ADHD child for standardized testing.

  • Fight for 1-on-1 testing. Last year, it was his math tutor who did the testing. This year, it is the Speech Therapist. The most important thing was to have a teacher or staff member that he is very familiar with. Teacher's are not allowed to say much once testing begins, so it is up to Ethan to say if he needs a break, or if there is something going on. Having a familiar person was key for his comfort level.
  • Allow for breaks. When Ethan gets frustrated with a question, he just shuts down and will not answer anything else. That being said, it's imperative that he gets a break BEFORE he gets so frustrated. Sometimes he just needs to stand up and walk around...he's a big pacer, and that helps him think, so allowing for a quick walk around the room can help.
  • Drink from a straw. We have found that drinking through a straw helps Ethan to refocus, so stick a straw in a bottle of water and that could help. It also gives him a chance to stop and think about drinking instead of how hard a question might be.
  • Chew or eat something crunchy. An occupational therapist told us one time that crunchy and chewy foods help to reorganize the brain. We have found that anything from chewing gum to crunching on carrots can help. This time, I gave his speech therapist a bag of sour lego block candy. Hopefully he won't eat all of them at once, but use them when needed. One of the things we constant try to teach him is how to advocate for himself, including asking for the help he needs.
  • Have a fidget handy. Ethan does not use fidgets much anymore, but they definitely used to help him. It keeps that nervous energy at bay and again, allows them to focus on something other than worry.
  • Make sure your child understands that their grade does not depend on the results of this test. Ethan has worried about this endlessly and we always have to over emphasize that this test does not make any difference on his grades or whether or not he will pass the grade he is in.
  • Involve a reward. Ethan's teacher is allowing "Game Day" after testing on Thursday. He is very excited about getting to play video games after testing and it gives him something to look forward to. Other teachers are having movie day, extra recess, or extra time on the computers, iTouch's and iPads.
Do you have a special needs child that has gone through standardized testing? Did you have any tricks that you have used? Would any of these solutions work for your child? I'd love to hear your comments!

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