Strategies for Test Anxiety
How, then, can parents and teachers help reduce test anxiety in students with intellectual disabilities? One option is cognitive behavioral therapy; a type of psychotherapy. The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists defines cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, as a therapy that “is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feeling and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events."
Lufi, Okasha and Cohen note that cognitive behavioral therapy for test anxiety can involve several interventions, including guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation. With progressive muscle relaxation, the therapist has the student sit comfortably and alternate between tensing and relaxing muscles. Shippensburg University notes that progressive muscle relaxation is done by groups of muscles, such as hands, biceps and triceps, shoulders, and neck. Using guided imagery, the therapist helps the student visualize sounds, images and smells that help them to relax. Another option is to incorporate relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing. Cooray and Bakala explain that relaxation techniques can help people who have mild to severe learning disabilities.
The cognitive behavioral therapist may also help train students in test-taking skills. When choosing a therapist to help reduce test anxiety in students with intellectual disabilities, look for one who has past experience working with patients who have intellectual disabilities.