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Visual Timers for Test Taking: Friend or Foe?

Learners with special needs, particularly those with attention disorders, may suffer from test anxiety. Timed tests force students to work quickly and efficiently, something that can be a challenge for someone who is easily distracted. Finding strategies to help these learners push past distractions and impulses is part of creating a learning environment that works for them. Testing is particularly tricky due to time limitations. Visual timers are one way to help avoid some of the most frequent disruptions.

Common Challenges with ADHD Children

During test time, it is important to remember that children with ADHD may need additional reinforcement. They often have trouble:

  • Hearing directions the first time.
  • Remembering the directions during the entire task.
  • Avoiding outbursts or other uncontrolled behaviors.
  • Remembering all of the steps.
  • Keeping their focus for extended periods.
  • Staying seated or still.
  • Getting organized and keeping their belongings together.

The Challenge of the Timed Test

For activities with a strict start and stop time, all of these problems are magnified. If a learner misses the original instructions, they may not start on time. Starting late leads to anxiety about finishing, which means more distraction and glances at the clock. It all adds up to a recipe for low scores.

Visual Timers Help Organize Students

A visual timer, not a clock, can help avoid some of the most common problems. A visual timer shows a moving image that represents the amount of time left. This helps students see how much they have accomplished and how much they need to finish. It also allows ADHD learners to understand when the task will be over. In a testing situation, this is invaluable. A student that completes the exam early can work out the fidgets before the next section, while one that is struggling can see when the test will be over. There are several phone applications available like "Visual Task Timer" and "Visual Timer" that are great options for all ages. Even an old-fashioned hourglass will work!

Many learners with attention disorders do better when expectations are clear, and activities follow a regular schedule. Because testing is not a daily activity, it can be challenging to create routines surrounding it, but timed activities happen every day. Applying those same rules in a testing situation can help develop a sense of comfort and relaxation.

On average, parents saw a 42% improvement in their child’s ability to learn in school after completing the Brain Balance program**. Learn more about how Brain Balance can help children with ADHD and learning disorders.

**Results based on a parent evaluation form filled out pre and post-program where the parents ranked a set of statements about their child, on a scale from 0-10 (0=not observed/does not apply and 10=frequently observed). Statement: Child has difficulty learning in school – 42% improvement for avg. student (2015-2018, data for 4,069 students where parents reported this issue).

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