Can you imagine sitting in class everyday of your life worrying about whether or not you were going to “explode” with noises and movements that you cannot control. A person with Tourrette’s Syndrome (TS) experiences this everyday of their life. Trying to control yourself from constant twitching of your mouth, jerking your head or breaking out yelling seems so easy to a person without TS. It’s just common self-control, but to a person with TS it can be the most difficult thing to do in a day.
Tourettes syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by involuntary movements and vocalizations known as “tics”.
TS is three times more likely to be found in boys than girls. Tourette’s is passed through genes and a parent with TS has a 50% chance of passing it to his or her child. This exceptionality is hereditary and it’s inevitable but luckily 1/3 of those whom inherit this gene will not experience any symptoms of this disorder in their life. It is a rare disorder, which is named after a French physician, Georges Gilles de la Tourette (1857-1904), who first described it in 1885.
There are many involuntary movements and vocalizations (also known as “tics”) that might occur to a person with TS.
Some tics include throat clearing, grunting, yelling or screaming, sniffing, barking, snorting, coughing, spitting, squeaking, humming or yelling of obscenities. Behavioral problems that might occur are temper tantrums, stealing, talking back, relentless teasing of siblings, short tempered, blaming, argumentative and angry.
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In a class room a student with Tourettes might be difficult to teach because of outbursts that disrupt the class or because the student needs a lot of supervision to help them stay on task, be organized, and finishing things that him/her started. Also a student with this disorder has a difficult time listening and concentrating on one thing too long.
Many children had been misdiagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder) rather than Tourettes because the symptoms are so close and for those who have been misdiagnosed the medication for ADD made their tics worse.
The social and emotional problems that often accompany TS can be more distressing for the person than the physical symptoms. Many children go undiagnosed for years, and some people might see them as having psychological or emotional problem. Or others might think they are obnoxious or simply nervous.
The most difficult rejection for a child with Tourettes is the ridicule and teasing from classmates. Peer acceptance is so important as it is for anyone.
Many people with Tourettes learn to control their tics, no matter how hard it is they find a way to release it when it is the right time and when the are alone.
Treating TS is hard, there is no “magic pill” designed to help control TS. Some children with real severe motor and vocal tics might have medication to try and help, but the side effects can be more of a problem than their tics. A person with TS has to somehow try to control their tics by having a comfort spot in where they can relieve themselves. For example when a student with TS feels the need to “explode” they should get up and out of the class and to a quiet spot where they can let it all go and then return to class when they feel they can.
A person with TS needs the feeling of being “normal’ and not an “exception”. So we should not feel sorry for a person with TS, but we should be supportive in any way possible. Helping them find their “out” so that they are comfortable is all we can do.