School-age international adoptees, particularly those
adopted after the age of 7, will be exposed to testing, including state-wide
tests. In general, test taking is a culturally unknown territory for
them: there may be no such phenomenon in their native countries. In
this domain they compete with peers who grew up taking tests practically
from kindergarten. Test taking is a culturally-determined activity:
it includes certain behavior patterns, expectations, and feelings. The
assumption that children who never participated in such activity will
learn it quickly just through observation of their peers is often not
correct. No wonder, many adoptive parents complain that their children
may know the material, but as soon as it comes to testing (even routine
weekly classroom testing), their children do not perform well.
Actually, there are two kinds of issues here. One is regular testing
- a part of everyday school routine. Another is test taking modification
- a possible part of a child's Individual Educational Plan.
Addressing the first issue, international adoptees have to be specifically
taught how to perform, feel, and think during test taking activities.
There is a lot of information on this topic on the Internet, and parents
and teachers should implement recommended techniques in preparing their
students for tests:
A related to this discussion issue is test taking anxiety
problem. Many international adoptees experience what is known as "floating
anxiety" (a generalized anxiety related to many aspects of school
functioning). Test anxiety is defined as a situation-specific anxiety.
There are two components in test anxiety: emotional and cognitive. Cognitive
component affects memory and reasoning and may include some self-defeating
thoughts of immanent failure, uselessness of efforts, etc. Emotional
component consists of the physiological symptoms, such as sweating,
dizzy spells, stomachache, or headache. Students with test anxiety may
report stomach upset and headaches the day before and/or the day of
the test. They may not feel like eating or have difficulty sleeping
the night before the test. Some parents report bedwetting and crying.
Here is a description of child's behavior I often observe
during the testing (the child was given an achievement tests 16 months
after adoption): "Performance-related anxiety was a prominent feature
of her interaction. At times she scanned my face and movements for clues
on how to perform various assignments. On many occasions, particularly
with math tests, her elevated anxiety led to a "freeze and surrender"
posture: she put forward a passive, stupor-like, unresponsive façade
as her way of coping with the challenges related to those test items
that she perceived as difficult for her. She often answered with a rising
inflection, as though she did not trust herself to give the correct
There are many ways to address test anxiety, but they have to be individualized:
no "one-size-fits-all" approach works here. Here is more information
on this subject:
For those children who have IEP, a number of test modification options
should be included in their plan. These test modifications have to be
periodically reviewed and adjusted by your IEP team. Most typical test
taking modifications should include:
- Extended (probably doubled) time for assignments
- Separate location/small group setting for test taking.
- Questions to be read aloud for the child (math testing
- Instructions to be read and re-read for the (both math
Please refer to my article written specifically
about test accommodations for internationally adopted post-institutionalized
children: Test accommodations for internationally adopted children
with disabilities, available at http://www.bgcenter.com/Newsletter/June_21_2007_Newsletter.htm.