Many of our kids are twice-exceptional – gifted, but also learning challenged. They may have a high IQ, but struggle to show it on tests because of slow processing speed, poor working memory, or problems expressing themselves in writing. For kids who qualify for an IEP or 504 plan, test modifications can accommodate these significantly different needs. For everyone else, grades and self-esteem suffer.
In an ideal school, teachers would give tests in the mornings when kids are most fresh, and over flexible time periods. Long tests would be broken into shorter (30-minute) sessions over several days, with frequent breaks and extra time when needed. “Kids say that receiving extended time on tests or doing special projects or extra homework in place of tests has helped them go from failing grades to, in some cases, the honor roll,” says Chris Ziegler Dendy, M.S.
We love the idea of allowing students to earn extra credit with creative assignments like interviewing a war veteran for history class, cutting out magazine articles related to a book they’re reading in English class, or correcting errors made on tests for homework.
Teachers can also make exams more ADHD-friendly by using multiple-choice and true/false questions to jog memory, administering oral exams, allowing open-book tests, and accommodating different learning styles with creative formats like collages or dioramas. Answer bubbles should be bigger, directions should be clear, and important words should be highlighted using varying typeface (style, color, size). Kids should also be allowed to use a timer, calculator, word processor, dictionary, or spell-checker to help them with common problems like spelling or losing track of time during an exam.