Freshman year was filled with painful and embarrassing moments in the classroom for Nolan Asis.
“I won’t lie. I teared up a bit. I felt sad because this had been happening all year," Nolan said. “I thought what was wrong with me?”
Nolan said he studied hard in all his classes and even asked for extra help from teachers, but on test days he found himself sitting at his desk, paralyzed with fear.
“When I got in there I literally forgot everything the teacher taught me. I panicked,” he said.
Nolan suffers from test anxiety. He felt alone back then; he didn’t know that his story is not unusual. Child psychologist Dr. Lisa Elliot says she has seen an increase in children with test anxiety.
She says calls and visits to her office pick up before major standardized tests like the STAAR. Thousands of North Texas students will begin taking STAAR tests next Monday.
Dr. Elliot works for Cook Children’s Hospital and counsels kids like Nolan who struggle with testing.
“These children see this as an all or none situation. If I don’t pass, I’m going to fail,” said Elliot.
While pre-test jitters are normal, she says if your child does poorly on a test even after a lot of preparation, they may have a problem with test anxiety.
“If you can go back after the test and you ask those kids those questions again either orally or written and they do perfectly fine, you know with pretty much certainty you have a test anxiety situation,” she said.
Dr. Elliot taught Nolan relaxation and coping strategies that he can rely on during tests. Nolan’s mother says once she realized what Nolan’s problem was, she didn’t hesitate to get him professional help.
“The big thing is not to wait. You’re losing your child’s time by waiting,“ she said. "You are also putting a real dent in their self confidence.”
Now a junior at Denton High School, Nolan’s grades have improved. He went from getting Cs and Ds to As and Bs in school.
“There’s always strategies. There’s always a way to get through this. There’s always a way," Eliot said.
His confidence has grown along with his test scores.
Nolan said his mind would go blank before a test, but there are other symptoms of test anxiety. They include difficulty sleeping, racing thoughts, dry mouth and upset stomach. Some of these things may occur just before or even during a test.