How is Tourette Syndrome “identified” or “categorized”? Tourette Syndrome is a neurological condition (sometimes referred to as a neuropsychiatric condition). It is a physical—not a behavioural or a mental health—condition. Tourette Syndrome is associated with other behavioural and mental health conditions because of the high likelihood of having additional conditions of these types. There are more people with TS and one or more additional conditions that could be categorized as behavioural, psychological, neurological or mental health than there are people with only TS. If a person has more than one condition, for example, TS and ADHD or TS and OCD, they can be categorized as having multiple exceptionalities. Can my child ever be punished for symptoms of their TS or TS+? You shouldn’t be punished at school for symptoms of your medical condition. For example, it would be ridiculous to think that someone might be punished for having a seizure. That said, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a symptom and an intentional action. You can take steps to help your son or daughter’s school staff become more aware of this potential source of confusion by letting them know about your son or daughter’s condition(s) via a letter from their physician. Ask the doctor to describe their symptoms in the letter if you think that would be helpful. You can request an in-service presentation, which will be delivered by a trained TSFC volunteer. You can also encourage your son or daughter to take responsibility for the outcome of their tics or other symptoms. They do not have to apologize for having a tic, however, they could still share in the responsibility for dealing with what happened because of that tic. This may mean apologizing for hurt feelings, for example. If you feel your son or daughter was wrongfully punished for symptoms of their medical conditions or condition, you can speak to:
- The teacher;
- The school principal;
- A school board representative or ombudsperson; or
- The TSFC national office.
What happens if I don’t want everyone at school to know about my child’s TS? If you don’t want to disclose your child’s TS, then you don’t have to. However, disclosure does have advantages: it helps students better understand their classmate and it equips the school with complete information as they work to remove any roadblocks to learning. Disclosure can get the ball rolling on the process of building a special education plan/program. Ultimately, disclosure is a decision you make as a parent/guardian. If your child is old enough, you may wish to have them participate in the decision-making process as well. Should I get them tutor? That’s entirely up to you. You can always talk to your son or daughter’s teacher(s) for additional input. If you think this would be beneficial, you may wish to hire a tutor to assist with their school work. There is no rule of thumb. My child’s medication (pharmaceuticals) has changed. Do I tell their school? You can tell your child’s teacher or teachers, but you are not legally obligated to do so. This information is private, however, you can choose to share it if you feel it will be helpful. If you’re not sure, talk to the prescribing physician about it. I’ve been asked to sign forms that give my doctor permission to talk to the school about my child’s conditions and treatment. Should I sign the forms? You are not legally required to sign a form that gives your child’s education team access to information from their doctor. If you think it will be helpful, you may do so. Carefully read over the forms first before you sign and keep copies of the forms for your records. I don’t like certain things in my child’s education plan/program. What do I do? Discuss your concerns with the education team. As a parent or guardian, it’s normal to give input and participate in the education plan development process. You are permitted to cross out items from the education plan before you sign off, however, this should be undertaken as a last resort and followed up with discussion with school staff. My child has been suspended in the past, but they are doing better now and I don’t want that on their record. What can I do? Talk to the principal of his or her school. In some provinces, you can request that the student record be purged. This means that past items are cleared out if they no longer have relevance to the student going forward. What are alternatives to public school? There are other options for schooling your child besides sending them to public school. The question is which one works best for you and your family. There are a number of considerations including cost and geography. There are also ways to go to public school without attending the way most students do. For example, a student might have a modified school day, do some home instruction, or obtain credits via co-op or summer school. I am worried about cyber-bullying. What can I do about it? Cyber-bullying is intentional, repeated harm inflicted on someone through electronic media such as the internet or cell phones. It includes using electronic devices to embarrass, exclude, harass, or harm another person. Common forms are text message bullying, email bullying, chat room bullying and bullying via instant messaging. Talk to your child to make sure they know that if they tell you about cyber-bullying they won’t lose their internet or cell phone privileges. Make it a rule that your child can only use technology in a respectful way. Report any threats of harm or violence to the police. Make sure that your child knows that they are a special, good person, regardless of what a bully says. Be a positive role model. There are many great anti-bullying websites out there including www.bullying.org. Stay tuned for the final part of this blog series, featuring a guest blogger, which will be published later this week. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.