How Parents/Carers Can Help Autistic Students Prepare & Handle Exams

Explain importance of exams/coursework – Knowing ‘why’ exams/coursework are a necessity to complete can be a great source of motivation to want to do well in them.

Why is the exam taking place? – to test how much knowledge of the subject you remember off by heart.

Why is it important you do the best you can? – To try and get the highest grade possible to pass the exam and impress potential employees/further education of your result.

Some employees require ‘pass’ grades to show you are qualified enough to learn further or work in that field. Passing exams in certain subjects is a great way to show off your knowledge in subjects you enjoy and is also a chance to show off!


Advice for Revision

Revision/studying plays a big part in the success of an exam/coursework and there are two big factors that can impact the quality of revision: comfort & enjoyment. Talk to the student and listen to what they think works best for them, then give it a go! If it works then great, if not then you can talk about making some adjustments.

What environment best enables the student to feel comfortable yet focussed?

  • Desk? Sofa? Outside? Bed? Beanbag? Library? A revision club? Listening to music while studying? Silence? Light/dark room?

Is there a time of day the student tends to be more focussed?

  • Morning, before school/lessons? Lunch time? After school? Just before bed?

Who do they like to study with?

  • Alone? A friend? Small group? With a parent/carer? Sibling? Tutor/teacher?

Is there a preferred revision method?

  • Re-writing key notes? Post it notes around the house? Highlighting? Practice exams/tests? Online quizzes? Typing notes? Mind maps? Flashcards? Tables/graphs? Tablet/laptop? Revision websites such as bitesize? Study Apps? Q&A style? Memorizing through song or story? Practical activities? Games? Working through revision guides?

There is not necessarily one particular right way per student – these can change completely from subject to subject or getting bored of a particular way, or closeness to the exam/deadline. Changing things up to best suit the student is encouraged!

Leading up to Exams

Structure and routine in the lead up to the exams are recommended for students with Autism; this is to try and alleviate stress or anxiety all while remaining positive.

When we talk about structure, we don’t just mean a revision timetable (although this is definitely recommended too!), we mean a complete day to day agenda to assure the student is getting a healthy balance of revision, sleep, exercise, meals, and downtime.

With regards to a revision timetable, it is a good idea to balance all subjects throughout a week – the length or time and breaks should be structured in a way to maximise focus and minimise burnout e.g. some students like one big session of 90+ mins,while  others like 30 minutes work, 10 mins break, 2 or 3 times a day; it is at the discretion of the student, and a trial & error basis until you find what works best. The closer it gets to exams, it is suggested that you alter the timetable to focus on the more immediate subjects e.g. study that subject the day before the exam.

Exams can come with a lot of stress & anxiety, so to help try and minimise this, encouraged ideas include:

  • Being clear with times, days & place exams will be – display exam timetable

  • Leaving any distracting factors/items that are of intense interest outside of the study environment

  • Practicing simple relaxation techniques e.g. listening to music, controlled breathing, other forms of sensory input etc.

  • Staying hydrated and eating balanced meals (if you are ever thirsty, you are already dehydrated!)

  • Taking part in physical activity/exercise reduces stress and anxiety

  • Be present, offer your support to listen and comfort –  It is normal and okay to feel anxious and nervous about the exam. Just try your best to read the questions through and think only about the question, and how to answer it. When the exam is over, you can think about whatever you would like, but when you are taking the exam you should try to think about the questions and answers only.

There are arrangements that may be offered and are available to students with special educational/additional support needs (including autism). These must be requested in advance to the exam board so the arrangements can be made before any possible deadlines.

Special arrangements offered include:

  • Extra time

  • A reader

  • A scribe

  • Typing instead of handwriting

  • Separate room

  • Supervised breaks

  • Assistive Software

  • Exam papers in other formats (including digital)

  • Oral language modifier

June 17, 2022

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