Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Advice About How To Handle When Your Child, Student, Or Friend's Tics Increase During Stressful or Exciting Times

We're approaching that time where school is coming to an end. For those of us in college we have about a month left, and for those of us who are younger we have about two or two and a half months left. The last month or two of school tends to be a rough time for us ticcers. The local and national TSA branches tend to yield a high volume of calls during the time for no other reason than tics increase during this time! 

There are a few clear reasons why tics increase during the last month or two of school. 

#1: Extra School Work. Teachers tend to assign more homework, essays, and tests during the last month or two of school to wrap up the school year and make sure all the material has been covered. This increases stress and anxiety, which of course increases tics 

#2: Transitions. A lot of kids/young adults with TS have trouble with transitions and the transition from the school year to summer is a big one! Life is transitioning from a very structured routine where you know what to expect every day to a very unstructured routine where suddenly you don't have to wake up at the same time every day, don't have homework, and don't have a set out plan for every day. This kind of transition and even the anticipation of the transition where you are moving from the known to the unknown, can be very stressful and usually increases tics. 

#3: Excitement! Even though the transition from school to summer time can increase stress, it can also increase excitement and excitement incenses tics as i'm sure most of you know. You or your child probably has something to look forward to during summer like a planned vacation, summer camp, family visiting, etc. and this excitement usually increases the tics. 

So with all of these things combined, it's not a surprise that ticcers have a challenging last month or two of the school year. Personally, I have seen my own tics increase a lot over the past week or so, considering I only have a month left in my sophomore year in college. 

Today my tics were especially bad and my day has been filled with involuntary squeals, squeaks, "NO's!", bangs, stomps. I am especially nervous about wrapping up my year long research project which I have to present a poster about at a research symposium, and I am especially excited about my second year as a counselor at camp twitch and shout this summer! 

At the lab at the medical school where I do my research, I was having a lot of high pitched humming and sqeaking tics today. Usually I don't do a lot of my tics in the lab because I'm usually so focused on my research that i'm doing or a conversation i'm having with those who I work with about the research. But today, I was doing a lot of my facial tics, head jerking tics, and high pitched humming and sqeaking tics. 
The post doctoral fellow I work with also has Tourette's and she is someone I admire so much. She's one of the coolest people I know and I always want to impress her and want her to like me. Sometimes I think she has no idea how much I admire her and look up to her. Her tics are more mild than mine, but I see them every now and then. I really appreciate our relationship and appreciate seeing someone who has TS who is so successful and confident about herself and what she does. I really appreciated today how normally she treated my tics. Although I don't tic around her nearly as much as I tic around my friends or in my classes, my tics today didn't phase her at all. She didn't even blink when I came in squeaking and humming today and I really appreciated that. She made me feel normal and like everything was okay even though I was having a rough time with my tics. 

So my advice is this. The best thing you can do for your child, your friend, or who ever you know in your life that has TS is don't draw attention to their increase in tics during this time period. Let them know you accept them and love them no matter if they are having a rough time and exhibiting more tics or not. Treat them like you always do. They are the same person even though they are having more tics and still want and need your support. Let them know in whatever way you can that you are there for them and that the fact they are ticcing more doesn't change how you feel about them and doesn't change their ability to do what they usually do, to be productive members of society, or to just be themselves. 

That was the best thing my post doc could do for me today or any day that I am having more tics. In her own way, she tells me this. Even though she doesn't tell me this verbally, she tells me this with her actions. She doesn't treat me any differently, doesn't look at me any different'y, doesn't even bat an eye or turn around when I squeak or make any type of noise. This is all I want really. To be treated like everyone else even on those days when I am ticcing a lot. 

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