1 child in every 100 is affected by Tourettes so it is likely that at some point or another, a child with Tourettes may have sat in your classroom. It is a condition where students move and make sounds involuntarily and uncontrollably. The organisation Tourettes’ Action says “Educationally – TS can make it impossible for students to follow what is going on in class”. Of course, Tourettes can be mild so in mainstream education, we may barely notice it. When it becomes extreme, we do what we can and transition these students into special education where we believe they will be a little bit safer and a lot more accepted. Yet, due to the fact that extreme cases are rare they are still a minority within some special education schools. Consequently, even there, students may face “ridicule, bullying and social exclusion”. As a result, schools and teachers must create an approach to caring for young people with Tourettes that builds their confidence and reduce any aspect of social exclusion and bullying.
Schools can of course raise the profile of this disorder by:
- incorporating information about disorders such as Tourettes in the curriculum through PSHE lessons
- creating assemblies which raises awareness of the disorder
- having facilities and systems which enables students to exercise everyday
- having a zero tolerance for bullying and make sure that students who bully or ridicule these students are effectively dealt with
Within the classroom, class teachers are often swamped with a sense of urgency. Whether a student has Tourettes or not, we are compelled to push them to secure progress. However, when you ask this child to cut a piece of paper or write a few sentences, she is reduced to a meltdown or uncontrollable rage as they find this task somewhere beyond difficult. Other times when you might ask her to begin an age old activity, she may descend into despair thinking she’s useless and good for nothing and therefore feels unable to complete the task before her. Therefore, as class teachers we must act to build self confidence and to provide the support which will allow these learners to blossom and fulfil their potential. So the question remains: how?
As a class teacher you should:
- seat the student close to the door so that they can make a quick exit if necessary
- provide students with a time out card to use if needed
- use lots and lots of praise to reinforce positive behaviours
- create a book with positive self talk and positive choices
- find out what this student is good at and give them ample opportunities to do this
- buddy them up with an understanding student to reduce effects of social exclusion
- use a bit of humour to help your student to smile and escape feelings of anxiety and stress
- never penalise the student for a behaviour that they can’t help
Of course there’s no one size fits all but I’m hoping that whether as a school or a teacher, you will be able to implement a few of these tips that will help your student to feel right at home.