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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ask Amanda - About Tourette syndrome awareness

What might a strategy be in order to educate a class where there is present a boy with Tourette syndrome? Ho might we address this situation with respect to the students as well as the class? The boy has blinking as well as some verbal ticks wich at times can be distracting to his learning ability as well as the rest of the class. ... Facebook Friend

When helping build awareness about a child's disability the most important rules to adhere to are:

  1. Make sure the process is controlled by the parent and/or the child.
  2. Promote empathy rather than sympathy

Make sure the process is controlled by the parent/child

Talk to the parent and the child. Get their ideas. What do they want to share?

If they do not want to talk about the child's disability specifically, then you need to address the issue in general terms. I will talk more about this below. This is often the most effective approach as it decreases the chances of the child being stereotyped by their "label" or disability.

Secondly, if the child does want to talk about their disability, it should be done in the context of all students talking about themselves. This sets up an environment of respect and empathy, rather than pity and isolating the student as "different" or with nothing in common with their peers.

For example, use "get-to-know-you" games. These could include sitting in a circle and throwing a ball. The person who catches a ball has to say something about themselves. It is best to have some guidelines about what they share, and also have some rules about responding respectfully. To find out more about rules go here.

And that brings me to another point - before you do anything, you need to set up a culture of respect by establishing these class rules. You also need to model the attitudes you want, such as including the child and praising the child, relating to them in the same way you would with any other student in your classroom.

Promote empathy rather than sympathy

If you want to discuss the issue with the class, make sure you do it in a way that helps them relate to the child rather than feel sorry for or fear them.

For example, don't talk about Tourettes syndrome. Talk about the things that the children see and hear (the blinking and verbal tics). But do this indirectly. An example of how you might do this is below. You will need to adapt this according to the age of the children and so on.

The way we act and what we say is effected by a lot of different things. But one of the most important things that effects how our body moves and what we say is the messages our brain sends to our body.

It is like each person is run by electricity and the brain is the power station. The "wires" that carry the electricity to "run" our body and our speech can be effected by different things. Tiredness, being sick and sometimes just the way our bodies are made. These things may mean it is hard to turn the power on or off. It may mean that one part of our body gets too much power, while another part doesn't get enough.

If we can't turn the power off when we want to we might call out when we don't mean to, or our body might move even when we don't want it to move.

Whether you personalise it or not will depend on whether the child/parent wants this. But just remember - if your students ask you "Is that what is wrong with ...", don't avoid the issue like it is taboo or a bad thing. Just calmly and briefly answer the question (or give the child with tourettes syndrome the opportunity to respond) without making a big deal of it.

This approach will help the children understand and relate to the child, rather than trying to teach them about a "label" or a syndrome - to which they won't be able to relate. Labelling can also increase the chances of bullying.

I hope that helps. If you want to know more about the syndrome and what you can do in the classroom to support students with tourettes, you might want to visit


Shelley May 1, 2009 at 10:10 PM  

Hi I just found this blog via your connent on DSA Keeping up with DS. I have a blog - would love your opinion on 'which school' dilenna - I know there is no one way to decide which school gets the privilege of teching ny twins - but looking at the 3 options - which one would you choose based on the infornation available toyou? Is the nain thing that the school WANT the child with DS?

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