Today over 70,000 year 12 students will be sitting the first of their HSC exams. Miss 18 is amongst them. But this year we are dealing with the HSC and anxiety, not really a match made in heaven!
It is only recently that we truly came to the realisation that Miss 18 suffers from anxiety and that anxiety is, in fact, a real thing. Sounds a bit naive but some of the things that unnerve miss 18 are also things that affected me, but to a much lesser degree, when I was younger but growing up I was just referred to as being shy.
Miss 18 hates to have to be the one to go to the local bread shop to get the bread, she hates to have to go to an unknown place and ask for something, she will be my shadow at particular social functions. We didn’t think a whole lot of it.
In recent years Miss 18 would come home with an exam mark and would always lose a few marks for things that we put down to silly mistakes. Mistakes happen so again we didn’t think a whole lot of it.
Then a few months back I said to hubby that we really need to focus on Miss 18 a little more before the trials and the HSC rolled around. We didn’t know where to start so I contacted her year 12 adviser and she set up a meeting with Miss 18 and the school counsellor. Through these meetings, it was established that Miss 18 does, in fact, suffer from various forms of anxiety including social anxiety and exam anxiety.
Given this information, the next thing we looked at was trying to get special provisions for the HSC. In order to do this you need a form from the year advisor which you then need completed by your GP or other medical providers such as psychologist or specialist etc.. Once completed this form is returned to your school and they submit it to the Board Of Studies. Ensure that the form is filled in with as much detail as possible to allow for the best outcome. The Board of Studies will then either approve or decline the provisions. In some circumstances, you can appeal a declined decisions by providing further supporting information. You can read up more on special provisions in NSW here.
We were lucky enough to have Miss 18’s special provisions approved so for the HSC exams she will have separate supervision, meaning that she will sit her exam in the library with other people who have provisions rather than in that hall with over 150 other students. She will also be entitled to rest breaks, usually, 5 minutes per half-hour of examination time in which time she may stretch, move, or rest in her seat whilst the exam paper is turned over and not accessible.
Miss 18 has described the symptoms of her anxiety. Before an exam, she will start to feel unwell, worried and anxious. During an exam, she can’t focus and finds it hard to really read the questions properly. She is distracted, feels dizzy and can’t concentrate. She feels sweaty and a bit breathless. Her mind will go blank and she will forget any quotes she has learnt and mess up maths formulas that out of that exam room she knows perfectly well. If she checks over her exam paper she will second-guess herself, often changing answers that were right to now incorrect answers. And it has a spiralling effect if you feel anxious and do poorly in this exam it negatively affects how to approach the next exam.
The level of her anxiety definitely impacts her exam performance and subsequently her exam results. In the ideal world, we probably should have been seeing a psychologist to help her to work through the anxiety and to learn strategies to cope with it in both social and exam situations.
The best advise that I think Miss 18 has been given in regards to the HSC exams was from a wonderful mum at primary school who has suffered from anxiety since her teenage years and so she has spent a bit of time talking to Miss 18 to help her through it. She said to Miss 18 that the anxiety will be with her in that exam room, there is no two ways about it, it will be there. But Miss 18 just has to acknowledge that and know that it is there and try to control it to the best of her ability.
There is a lot of information online and also a lot of great resources online. One of the ones that we came across was this website – https://humanconnections.com.au
If you suspect that your child may be suffering anxiety I definitely recommend that you get them help to work through it, and the earlier the better. Speak to your school, apply for provisions and seek help that will empower them with tools and techniques to work through it.