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Standardized Tests and Learning Disabilities

Standardized tests have become the most popular way to measure school and student success. These tests are designed to meet the needs of the average student, which often means that students with learning disorders don't have fair opportunities to show how well they can perform.

Unfortunately, many students with learning disabilities cannot opt out of all standardized tests. Following certain tips can help students with academic struggles do better on tests, even if those tests don't match their learning preferences.

Test Taking Tips for Students with ADHD

Students with ADHD have difficulty focusing on tasks or staying still throughout standardized tests. Anxiety often makes it even more difficult for students with ADHD to perform.

Some test taking tips that work for most students with ADHD include:

  • Studying practice tests to reduce anticipatory anxiety
  • Using breathing exercises to stay calm and focused during the test
  • Taking short breaks between test sections

Students could also benefit from getting enough rest the night before a test, eating a healthy breakfast, and taking medications as prescribed.

Test Taking Tips for Students with Dyslexia

Children with dyslexia are just as intelligent as their fellow students, but the disorder can make it difficult for them to read or write. Dyslexia becomes a big problem during standardized tests because students may not understand the questions or provided answers.

Test taking tips for dyslexia should vary depending on the student's specific challenges. Some popular strategies include:

  • Listening to audio recordings of class material to prepare for the test
  • Rereading questions and answers to understand them better
  • Taking practice tests to get used to different types of questions
  • Scanning the test to understand what is expected in each section

Like ADHD, dyslexia can also cause anxiety that interferes with academic success. Meditation and breathing exercises often reduce anxiety before and during the test.

School Accommodations are Available

Educators know that there are problems with standardized tests and learning disabilities. If your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability, then he or she may qualify for accommodations that will make the test more fair.

Common accommodations for learning disabilities include:

  • Taking the test in a quiet room without distractions
  • Removing or extending time limitations
  • Spreading out test sections over several days
  • Letting students take breaks when needed
  • Accepting verbal responses
  • Reading questions and answers out loud for better comprehension

Students may respond differently to tips and accommodations, so it's important for educators to tailor the experience to each person's abilities.

If you feel that your a school hasn't helped your child succeed on standardized tests, you may need to remind administrators that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires them to make appropriate accommodations for students with learning disabilities. Most schools understand that students with learning disabilities have different needs than their peers.


If your child has learning or behavioral issues, consider the Brain Balance Program®. Clinical research indicates that most neuro-developmental disorders have in common an under-connectivity between the two hemispheres of the brain called Functional Disconnection Syndrome. After completing a comprehensive assessment in one of our centers, our team develops a customized program to address your child’s particular issues. Each student’s program is tailored to his or her specific needs. Contact us today to learn more!

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