My son has a best friend. She is the sweetest, kindest, most amazing seven year old I have ever met. She is smart, she is generous, she is imaginative, she is entertaining and she has ADHD.
Kiwi, as we like to call this little girl, plays with Bodie for hours on end. It was during one of these play dates that I noticed a few…. well, a few tics. She was licking her hands, a lot. Then, when she was really excited or overwhelmed, she would roll her eyes. Not disrespectfully, but kind of a wide stare and a roll. What I love about this friendship she has with Bodie is that he could care less. He adores his best friend, eye roll, hand licks and all.
I was chatting with Kiwi’s mother at the pool about my observations regarding the tics we were observing. She was amazing and received my heart in a way that surprised me. The mother did not get angry that I approached her about the tics because she knew that I was there as a friend, not a nosy nibby that wanted to know what was “wrong”. I was there as a friend that wanted to offer some guidance and have consistency for how to encourage the behavior to be managed while playing at our house. I then asked if I could blog about our conversation to help guide other mothers and teachers on the co-morbidity of Tourette’s and ADHD.
This is my experience with Kiwi and my favorite past student of all time (I shouldn’t say that, but truly my my old student with Tourettes has a special place in my heart)…
Tics aren’t able to be “controlled” but managed. If your child has this Syndrome notice when the tics appear. Is the child anxious? Is he excited? Is he nervous? Does it occur in certain situations or times of the day? Are the tics verbal, physical? Does she notice that she is doing them? Is it a sensory issue (like the hand-licking)?
One tip I had for my dear friend is to keep track of when they appear. Do NOT punish for tics, but call attention to the fact that they are present. Ask, “I see you are (and state the behavior). What’s going on?”. Ask your child then to calmly count backward from 10. I encourage this to refocus the mind and calm the body. Do not ask your child to “stop”, but to calm. It was my experience with my former student that if he restrained his tics they ended up worse later. He would come to my classroom, his safe place, and be ale to relax. If his tics appeared, that was okay. He tried so hard to keep it together in the regular classroom that he could let it all out while in mine.
Teach your child or student to advocate for his/herself. This stops the whispering of other children. They can say “I have this syndrome and sometimes I____. It’s no big deal, but please don’t tease me about it because it was how I was made. You can’t help if your eyes are blue, and I can’t help that I have this Syndrome.” I remember having my student learn this little speech and he gave it one day in front of the class. The other students were able to ask him questions about what it felt like, why he did it and then……nothing. They went on the playground and had recess. That was it! Except something changed in my little buddy. He developed a voice and power. He learned that it was okay to be different and to express his difference in a way that was socially acceptable. Never again would a teacher tell him to “sit on his hands” when he flapped. He counted backward from ten and said “it’s who I am, but I will try to manage it a little better”. And he did.
Now when Kiwi comes to play her mom and I have the same langauge to redirect her tics. Communication with your children’s peers, parents, troupe leaders, dance instructors about how you want your child to be redirected during an outburst, and in outburst I mean a flare of the Syndrome, will give those that have a heart for your child the appropriate language to provide encouragement.
We love Kiwi whether she is pretending she and Bodie are cheetahs on the Savannah, reciting her Bible verses or licking her hands. I just have extra soap by the sink to make her wash her hands…. a lot.