Living with ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, can be very challenging, especially for children. It is a learning disorder which can adversely affect cognitive performance to varying degrees in different children.  One of the many difficulties that children with ADHD and other learning disabilities face is preparing for standardized tests. Preparing for these tests can cause anxiety and frustration, and children to lose their confidence and self-esteem. Many children with learning disabilities have routinely performed poorly on standardized tests.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a type of neurobiological behavioral disorder that affects the way in which certain neurotransmitters are fired in the brain. This results in cognitive performance being affected. ADHD is characterized by a number of behavioral symptoms which include hyperactivity, inattentiveness, restlessness, and impulsiveness. It is not a learning disorder per se; rather, its symptoms can cause obstacles and impediments to learning. These manifest to varying degrees in children.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD include:

•    Trouble concentrating or short attention spans – Children find it difficult to complete tasks which they find boring or which are not stimulating enough
•    Easily distracted – External stimuli such as sounds or objects, as well as their own thoughts tend to distract children with ADHD
•    Impulsivity or a tendency to act without thinking
•    Hyperactivity – Sitting still for extended periods of time can be problematic for children with ADHD
•    Impaired executive functioning – This makes it very hard for children with ADHD to think and plan ahead, stay organized, and process information (learn new things)

Familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of ADHD is the first step in understanding why certain tests affect these children negatively.

ADHD and Tests Performance

Children with ADHD will struggle with a number of different kinds of tests. The reasoning for this lies in the nature of ADHD itself and how it affects the brain. In addition, each child with ADHD has different symptoms, some of which are more pronounced than in others, and some of which may be completely unique to them.

The more common symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, an inability to focus, and difficulty in completing directed tasks. Preparing for any test is difficult; it involves hours of dedicated study, revision, and preparation. This can be extremely challenging for someone with ADHD, and if they feel as if they aren’t making any progress, the get demoralized. This has a direct and quantifiable effect on their test results.

It’s really a vicious cycle.

The symptoms of ADHD and their harmful effects are also more noticeable and pronounced under certain settings. In an environment which lacks stimuli, and where a child feels confined, ADHD may prove to be more troublesome.

How Do These Tests Negatively Affect a Child?

Even during the best of times, ADHD is a challenging condition to deal with. The process of preparing for a test and test settings is inherently stressful. Children feel the pressure to retain all the material and prepare effectively in order to perform well.  This process involves hours of dedicated study. Students must complete the work in increments in order to effectively retain the material they are trying to learn. For someone with ADHD, this process is far more stressful than it is for a regular student.

This is because ADHD creates symptoms and behavioral traits which act as an impediment to learning. These challenges can cause children with ADHD to take longer to understand what they are learning and the process can be arduous and frustrating. During this time, many children become dejected, question their intelligence, and would rather give up than go through the torture of trying to understand what they’re studying.
And that’s just when they’re studying for the test.

When the test finally comes around, children with ADHD must deal with a whole new stressful situation. Under test conditions, a child must sit quietly and work on the test. Children with ADHD have short attention spans, are hyperactive, can become easily distracted, have poor executive functioning abilities, and may struggle to stay focused. All of these symptoms can make it next to impossible for them to take the test effectively.

Children with ADHD cannot be expected to give the same tests as their peers. This is because ADHD makes learning far more difficult for them than it is for a regular student. Teachers and educators need to take this into account. Otherwise, these children will flounder at school and suffer from poor self-esteem. This would affect their future test performances as well.

What a child with ADHD needs is an approach to learning which takes into account their symptoms and struggles. Subjecting students with ADHD to the same type of testing as their peers who don’t have ADHD, is like swimming against the current; you expend a whole lot of effort and in the end don’t manage to get anywhere. Therefore, a different approach needs to be taken in order to help children with ADHD learn more effectively.