Supporting Your Dyslexic Teenager Through Exams

Posted: 8th April 2019


By: Susan Hall

Supporting Your Dyslexic Teenager Through Exams

Are revision and exams causing YOU, the parent of a dyslexic child, sleepless nights?

Do you have a dis-organised teenager, with notes everywhere, no revision plan, minimal evidence of revision and seemingly no idea when their exams are!

Are you feeling stuck………….unsure of the best way to support your child through the next few weeks?

If you have answered yes to any, or all, of the above you are not alone.

Exams can be very stressful for pupils under pressure to achieve, but this can be compounded if your child is dyslexic.

I was chatting with a mum recently who was struggling. Her son is studying for his GCSE exams, and is dyslexic.

She really wanted to help him but didn’t know how. She wasn’t dyslexic herself and so was struggling to understand his approach to exams and she didn’t feel confident supporting him with the subject content.

She felt helpless.

Whilst her subject knowledge may be a little rusty, and she didn’t feel that she herself was a ‘whizz’ at exams, I asked her to look at the situation in terms of how she could provide support for her son.

Preparing for exams involves revising (reviewing the course content) and developing exam technique (how to share your knowledge in the exam). Both are key areas, but there is another area which requires consideration, and this is where you, as a parent, can provide support today.

We all appreciate that a healthy, well fuelled and well rested child will perform better than a tired, hungry, stressed one. However, teenagers can be distracted with work and helping them stay on track with practical support can be invaluable for them.

So how can you provide practical support?

First, create a study environment for your child. Ideally a quiet, welcoming and inspirational place to study. A corner of their room, or possibly the dining room table? Your child is more likely to use the space it if it is appealing, with a desk, chair and good lighting.

Maybe invest in a pair of noise cancelling headphones for them if family life is continuing around them!

Stock up on healthy snacks & encourage your child to drink plenty of water whilst revising, as this helps concentration. But avoid caffeine, energy drinks and sugary snacks, as this can lead to energy spikes followed by tiredness and lethargy!

Encourage your child to have plenty of sleep and keep to regular bedtimes. Whilst your teenager may prefer to lie in, and work later into the day (that’s OK for revision) their body clock needs to be used to working during school hours. Many exams start at or shortly after 9am, therefore encourage your child to be up, dressed and working by 9am during study leave!

Check that your child has plenty of pens, paper, highlighters, post it’s etc for revising. Many shops, including the supermarkets are selling ‘revision packs’. There are also great revision apps too.

Check if your child has the correct equipment ready for the exams? Black pens, pencils, rulers, highlighters, calculators, a clear pencil case to store their resources, a water bottle? Check with your school for specific requirements. Maybe a trip to the shop is needed to stock up ready.

Help your child manage their time. Draw up an exam timetable or put their exam dates onto a calendar. Carefully note the date, time and subject for each exam. Check which subjects have more than one exam. By knowing which subject content will be tested on which days, you can ensure your child stays on track.

Once you know when the exams are, draw up a revision timetable and help your child work out which subjects to revise and when. I’ll be looking at this in more detail in my next blog post.

Monitor their work habits. Your child may be quietly sitting in their room, and you may have removed all distractions from them (phone, tablets, computer games consoles etc) but are they studying? Is their revision meaningful and relevant? Help them aim for quality not quantity revision.

A couple of hours of quality revision, when they are focused and interacting with the subject content is far more valuable than hours and hours of half-hearted attempts at reading and re-reading their books.

Encourage regular breaks. Breaks provide an opportunity to clear their head, whilst their brain   continues processing the information that they have just revised. Possible suggestions are work for 25 minutes and then have a 5-minute break. Or work for an hour and have a 20-minute break. Different people have different concentration spans, help your child work out theirs.

The pomodoro technique can be very helpful.

Build in time for exercise and fresh air. Whilst they may have to reduce sporting commitments/hobbies over the exam period, ensure your child has opportunities to continue to exercise as this will help them feel better, mentally and physically. This could be a walk in the park, a bike ride or a swim. Even bouncing on the trampoline whilst repeating revision facts helps!

Most importantly, be their biggest cheerleader. Encourage them, cajole them, inspire them, motivate them. Exams are challenging and can be viewed as stressful and difficult, or they can be viewed as an opportunity to celebrate what you know and share it with the examiners.

Help them keep exams in perspective.

If you would like to discuss any of these points in more detail or would like further support please email me,