Oh my, did we have a doozy today. My oldest son was taking his math test and began to have some serious anxiety issues. This is not uncommon for him, unfortunately it is something he struggles with on a daily basis. Due to this and other struggles, we currently home school him. I thank God often for giving me a teaching background.
In preparation for this test, I had already looked over the problems and modified by eliminating the repetitive questions. When he looks at a test he sees quantity and that gets him very anxious. He begins to worry that he will never be able to finish. Then he frantically worries that he is going to make a failing grade. Side note...even with the anxiety and meltdowns he always makes an A. That is one of the things that just blows my mind. He is so talented in math but he panics that he is going to fail the tests. When this happens, it is as if his logical thinking shuts off and he can't even add simple numbers. It is so hard to watch as his mother.
As expected, he was frustrated within the first 10 minutes. His frustration turns into whining. For children with Asperger's, parents cannot get upset and yell. This goes against my natural instinct, for sure. I am definitely a "passionate" person and often times it gets the best of me. I try to distance myself from him (go to a different room, check my email, etc) to keep my stress and anxiety low. However, most of the time he follows me and cries that he doesn't want to be by himself. He has to get himself out of these fits and when he is in the middle of one there is no reasoning. We have to wait it out... and it can be a very long wait.
Today, I decided to call my mother in law for help. She came and picked up our four year old daughter. They were going to run errands and that would give me an opportunity to work one on one with our son. The melt down finally ended and we were able to talk in a nice, quiet house. When I finally got to the root of the anxiety, he admitted that he was scared of failing. I reminded him that I would never let him fail a test. I told him if he failed, I would re-teach him and he would have another opportunity to take the test. I saw a wave of relief rush over him. He realized it was going to be okay and he was not going to fail. But, I can't get him to understand that until the meltdown is over and he is calm.
I asked him if he would be willing to take the test one problem at a time using his dry erase board. He agreed to that because he loves using his dry erase board and markers. I kept the test on the other side of the room (out of his sight) and wrote only one problem on the board. He worked the problem, showed me the answer, and then I wrote the answer in the book. This kept him from getting anxious over seeing the entire test. It reminds me of putting blinders on a horse so they don't see the other horses during a race. I also had him eat his lunch at the same time. I knew eating would give him something else to focus on in between math problems. Also, I read that chewing relieves frustration. Each time he would finish a problem, I would take the dry erase board to the other side of the room, wipe it clean, and write down the next problem. We finished in 20 minutes. He was calm, happy, and made a...100. :)
I think this is how I am going to handle his math test next week. I may not even call it a test. I will just have him work different problems on his dry erase board. The point is that he knows how to work the problems, not calling it a test.
The "test" took two hours total. One hour and forty minutes to work through the melt down and twenty minutes to really do the work. It was exhausting but we made it through and we have learned to call that a SUCCESS!