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Differentiating Behaviours From Symptoms: And how the two may relate

By Melissa C. Water

While tics are legitimate actions, are they behaviours?

A behaviour is chosen, whether that choice was well reflected on beforehand or not. A symptom, however, is a manifestation of something beyond our control.

It would be unfortunate to attribute blatant misconduct to a child experiencing Tourette Syndrome; unless what we are referring to is actually outside the scope of the definition of a tic.

Is a child themselves disruptive, or are their tics?

If I’m sitting in school receiving disapproving looks from the teacher and I’m told that I’m disruptive, it feels like the characteristic is being assigned to me as a person and not to my condition. My tics may draw attention, but the individual that I am should be differentiated from my noises or movements, otherwise, not only is it unfair to my identity, but I might tend to feel like I’m taking on the responsibility of the undeserved negative emotions directed at me.

Children, however, are children. That’s a given. Kids will misbehave as they grow and learn how to react to the world around them. So while there is a clear difference between a tic and real acting up, could there be a link between the two?

In the society we live in, a child with tics may be judged left and right by an environment that doesn’t understand, for something they can’t help and could feel embarrassed about. They may develop a lot of frustration and defensiveness, which could translate to difficult to deal with behaviours. Of course, we are responsible for our actions, and I wouldn’t want to use the Tourette Syndrome excuse card in regards to legitimately bad behaviour, but perhaps a window of comprehension can be opened, as well as a conversation.

Grasping whether a child’s conduct is caused by living day to day with Tourette Syndrome is a key to understanding the source and working toward a solution. We can’t apply a band-aid unless we find the wound. In trying to decipher the route taken from point A to point B, we are one step closer to making that path a little easier next time.

If someone dreams of being in public wearing only their underwear, they are glad to wake up, but an individual with Tourette is living often daily in a vulnerable state, to which what can, for most, feel like an embarrassing situation, is a reality.

A Touretter can’t walk away from themselves like those around them can. They don’t get that break.

Everyone has their bumps and bruises, but if we take a moment to figure each other out, maybe we could seize the opportunity to sit down and say, “You know what? I would love to understand, and I need your help to do that. I’d love to be there to hear how you feel, as well as see what we can do to help you feel less angry or hurt.”

Yeah, it’s not that simple, but maybe it’s a beginning.

We want people to be aware. We fight for it. Let’s start with ourselves.

Melissa C. Water is the Virtual Support Coordinator with Tourette Canada. She can be reached at virtual@tourette.ca.

 

1 Comment

  1. Andrea Coutu PCD says:

    Such great observations and thoughts. Seeking to make a meaningful connection on the level of the individual is really what will make the difference. Hopefully, we will see more continuing professional development – and social and community development – in these areas. Empathy matters as much as engagement.

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