Teacher's Hub

Dear Teacher,

Children with Tourette’s often struggle with accessing the curriculum. However, it’s important to be aware that Tourette Syndrome does not affect a person’s IQ and the barriers to learning come from anxiety around tics, the

tics themselves, or co -occurring conditions.

Even if you feel a child in your class tics are mild or not present, it is likely that the child is suppressing them. If you can’t see them, still be mindful of the challenges they are facing as whether tics are mild or they’re suppressing them, this is very distracting for them.

Vocal and motor tics can affect reading, writing and focus to name a few.

Please also be mindful that tics are so much more then motor movements and vocal sounds; other forms of tics include:
contextual/ conversational tics, these tics can be relevant, appropriate and in context. These can appear to look and sound as though the child is ‘calling out’, or ‘answering back’.

visual tics, these can involve looking at objects differently (squinted eyes, holding object at an angle), counting patterns, lines on walls, windows and floors.

Intrusive thought tics, these although not visible are a very common tic form where thoughts are on repeat and can often have a negative or inappropriate vibe to them.

Blocking tics, this is where a person cannot either speak or move (or both) these are due to prolonged tonic or dystonic tics that interrupt motor activity.

Where possible have the child sat at the back or side of the class, where they are not in the direct view of their peers. (Always be led by the child as to where they feel they are best sat)

It’s also extremely important to ignore tics wherever possible, drawing attention, commenting on and picking on tics, can exacerbate them due to

the suggestibility of them.

Set regular movement breaks throughout the school day, where the child can go run an errand, or go to a specific room to allow his/her tics out. This room should be staffed ideally, so they can remind the child to release their tics for a few minutes before returning to class. If there isn’t a staffed room, please make a laminated prompt sheet that reminds them of the purpose of being there. Tic release can also be done whilst running errands such as walking to

the reception office. (See post on fizzy breaks to learn more)

Assembly- these can be extremely stressful, thus causing a tic increase. Triggers can include but are not limited to, having to sit still, in silence, amongst peers, florescent lighting, and anxiety. Where possible, children with

tics should be exempt from assembly (only if they find assembly an issue)

Use a traffic light system. This can be done using red and green laminated square card. Work out a system between you, where the child has the green card showing on their desk when they’re feeling good, then they can turn it over to red if they’re struggling at all. Have an agreement between you both where the child knows that if they show red, you will support them. (discuss with them, what ‘supporting them’ will entail) this maybe sending them out to run an errand, having a chat after lesson etc.

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