Managing exam stress and anxiety for children with SEND

A young woman sitting an exam with other young people in the background.

Exams can be a stressful time for any child, but for those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), the challenges can be even greater.

As parents, it’s crucial to support your child through these times and work collaboratively with their school. These strategies and resources can help you navigate this period.

Understanding stress and anxiety

Firstly, it’s important to recognise the signs of stress and anxiety in your child. These can include changes in behaviour, sleep patterns, appetite and mood. Children with SEND may express their anxiety differently, so stay attuned to any changes that may indicate they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Creating a supportive environment at home

A calm and structured environment can help reduce stress levels. Establish a consistent routine for study and relaxation, ensuring your child has a balance between work and down time. Encourage regular breaks and incorporate activities that your child finds calming, such as reading, drawing or spending time outdoors.

Effective study techniques

Work with your child to develop a revision timetable that breaks down subjects into manageable chunks. This can help them feel more in control and less anxious about the volume of work. Use visual aids and interactive tools to make revision more engaging for children with SEND.

Encouraging positive thinking

Help your child focus on their strengths and past successes. Positive reinforcement can boost their confidence and reduce exam-related anxiety. Remind them that exams are just one part of their educational journey and that you’re proud of their efforts regardless of outcomes.

Collaboration with schools

Maintain open communication with your child’s school. Discuss any concerns you have and explore how the school can support your child during exam periods. This might include extra time during exams, a quiet room for studying or the provision of additional resources.

Resources and support

These resources can help you understand what support is available for your child and suggest strategies to help them to cope with stress and anxiety leading up to their exams:

As a parent, you’re not alone in wanting to relieve your child’s exam stress. By creating a supportive home environment, collaborating with schools and using these resources, you can make a significant difference in your child’s exam experience. Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Stay flexible and responsive to your child’s needs and don’t hesitate to reach out for support when needed.