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Children with tics or Tourette syndrome (TS) don’t want to be ticcing – especially at school, in front of their peers, teachers, coaches, and others who matter so much in the social picture of their lives.

A tic is a no-fault neurological symptom. Students with tics can’t help it and may not even be aware that they’re doing it. Yet it can be frustrating at best, and the source of teasing and/or physical pain in worst cases. Your most powerful tool in helping your students to live with tics is understanding. From there, you can help ease their suffering and enhance their academic experience.

Transient Tics versus TS

A tic is an abrupt, uncontrollable movement or sound that does not relate to a person’s normal gestures. Examples include rapid, repeated blinking, shoulder shrugging, and knee slapping or clearing of the throat. Often confused with nervous behavior, tics affect about 10 percent of school-aged children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Children with transient tic disorder have noticeable physical or vocal tics. In youngsters with TS, they occur at the same time, making the disorder all the more noticeable and challenging to manage.

How to Help Your Students Cope

Here are some tips as you work with students who suffer from tic disorders, to help them optimize their learning potential:

  • Help relieve stress. Research has shown that keeping stress at a minimum can help alleviate tic triggers.
  • Develop alternatives to tic behaviors. Help your students to master more socially appropriate actions when their tics kick in. For instance, if a child feels the urge to punch, have them clinch their fist in their pocket. If they feel the urge to whistle out loud, work with them to take deep breaths. Afterwards, reward their efforts.
  • Listen carefully to what your students tell you about their tics. If the tics aren’t bothering them, it’s probably best to leave them alone instead of asking questions or drawing more attention to the situation. However, if students are experiencing embarrassment, frustration, or even pain as a result of their tics, let them know that there are ways to help them gain control.

Having a tic disorder should not prevent a child from doing what they want to in their lives – including functioning normally and succeeding in school. Living with tics is a complex challenge, but it would be so much easier if there were greater understanding and acceptance of this reality.

For additional resources and tips to enhance your school-based therapy career, read our related posts or contact the team at Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services today.


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