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The Dreaded Exams - Autism Chapter 7

Friday, 29 July 2016  |  Admin

The Dreaded Exams


If there is one thing guaranteed to cause anxiety in this house, it’s any mention of the words ‘exam’ or ‘test’. In fact I’m absolutely sure that my daughter has an inbuilt radar which tells them when any of her teachers have even been discussing the possibility of one! Exams are stressful, it’s the feeling of making a mistake which can’t be rectified, it’s the thought of sitting in silence in a strange room with a strange person, it’s the thought of opening something which is unknown and not knowing the answers. It’s also a change from her usual routine. Tests mean P.E. moved, or break is at a different time. Horror of horrors they sometimes even mean a different teacher taking the class.


The reality of life however, is that much as we hate putting her through the added anxiety of exams – the new curriculum is going to demand that of students more regularly. I know that both we and her teachers need to equip her with the skills to deal with this. That doesn’t mean I like it though. Luckily however, we have a few tried and tests tricks up our sleeves to get our family through the day without too much trauma:

  • We tell her we don’t care about the results, as long as she stays calm, we will be proud. We minimize its importance to the extreme, her teachers are onside and more than willing to whisper in her ear to the same effect.
  • We try to ignore her anxiety as far as possible. We cuddle her, we love her, we tell her it’s normal to be nervous. If she gets sick (which is likely), we stay calm and tell her she’ll feel better when she gets there. Us getting in a flap, will definitely not help.
  • We bribe. Shamelessly and without doubt. Not for the results but simply for going into the room and staying calm. Luckily she is the most unmaterialistic child I’ve ever known – so 10 jelly beans usually does the trick.
  • We get up early on the morning of the test. That morning things will go wrong. She will have a meltdown. She will probably be sick. If we are rushed dealing with all these things will be ten times worse.


In our house, the reality is it’s always a balance between coping with the day and preparing for the future. I could ask for her to be withdrawn from tests – it would certainly make life easier. But I won’t. The reality is however hard they make today, I know they will help her tomorrow. If she can cope with the small ones, the big ones won’t seem so hard. It isn’t easy, and it will get harder, but then Rome wasn’t built in a day…