Explaining Tourette in Elementary School
I’ve already connected with my 7-year-old son’s new teacher. She is familiar with TS and with my son’s specific needs and symptoms. But I think it will be beneficial socially if we can prepare his new elementary classmates for his symptoms. Any ideas about how to discuss TS with 7- and 8-year-olds?
Preparing your son’s classmates for what to expect is an important step to take that will likely smooth his social transition. When Tourette or TS is explained in a way that is appropriate for the developmental level of first or second graders, they will be more likely to be understanding and accepting of your son’s symptoms and behaviors. Talk to the teacher to see if this can be arranged right at the start of the school year, so that he and his peers start off on the right foot.
A classroom discussion of TS can take several forms. Your son, with your support and the assistance of the teacher, might choose to play an active role if he is comfortable doing so. You might prepare a script with him in which he explains that he has tics. He can describe what tics are (not the bug!), that they are not contagious, that he can’t help it, just like someone can’t help a sneeze, and that it’s a medical problem, just like asthma or allergies. He is not doing tics on purpose for attention or to be annoying. Alternatively, or in addition, you or the teacher may want to read a short story about TS to his classmates. Stories for that grade level, such as “Matthew and the Tics,” can be helpful. Whatever forms the presentation takes, collaborate with the teacher to make sure it is geared toward the ability level and attention span of 7 and 8 year-olds. You may also want to prepare your son for the common questions his classmates may ask him about his tics, such as, “Do tics hurt?”,“Do you take medicine for it?”, “Will it ever go away?”, etc. They may pose these questions at the presentation or at some later point. You may want to practice with him giving some prepared responses, and even have a signal set up in case he needs your help at the presentation responding to a question.