Yesterday after school, my second grader climbed in the car and he said something that struck me.
“Mom…something happened today. C and K saved me. They saved me when I couldn’t talk.”
Of course I was thinking a million things! Did he choke at lunch? Was he gagged and bound by a bully who had vampire teeth and a tear drop tattoo and these two brave kids came to his rescue? I’m a worrying helicopter mother by the way, so of course my mind was going crazy with questions.
“P, tell me what happened!”
“Well,” he began, “there were these two girls from another class, and I was doing one of my tics and I couldn’t stop (it was a tic where his arms stiffen up, and his hands shake. During this, his face also stiffens). They were telling me to stop it and told me that I was so weird. I wanted to say something but I couldn’t because I couldn’t stop my tic. But C and K saved me. They told the girls that I had Tourette’s and that I couldn’t help it. They told them I wasn’t weird and that it was my brain making me do it and they shouldn’t be telling me to stop it because I can’t.”
Rewind: A few weeks ago, my son’s teacher, school counselor, and a very sweet high school kid, who also has Tourette’s came in to help P teach his class. They were taught about what Tourette’s is and why P was doing these things, called tics. When P asked the class, “How many of you have noticed me doing some of these movements and sounds?” The entire class raised their hands. I cried a little to myself sitting in the corner watching all of this. But not P, he just smiled and said, “See…that’s what my Tourette’s is!”
His AMAZING teacher said something that I will never forget, “We are P’s family here at school. So now that you know about his Tourette’s, if you ever see or hear anyone making jokes or talking about it, it is our job to help them to understand. We all have to look out for each other.”
THEY LISTENED!!! Kids will listen when they are taught. It takes teachers, parents, and other kids to help raise confident, happy children who feel accepted. P feeling like these boys “saved” him, is so powerful. It was like he was being thrown a life raft. He needed a voice and luckily he ended up having two, even if they weren’t his own. A little bit of help can go a long way. But here’s the kicker, not only did they “save” my child in that moment, but those two boys showed character and their ability to stand up for and accept others. They also taught two more children (the girls) about TS. I would march right up to that school and kiss them right on their faces if I could, but that would be creepy and so I won’t, but I’m so grateful. So very very grateful.
Yes, my remarkably-wonderful-amazing-talented-rockstar 8 year-old son has Tourette’s Syndrome. It is not something I am afraid, ashamed, or hesitant to talk about. It is a neurological disorder. He was born with this. He started having tics when he was only 8 months old. He shakes his hands, taps a pencil, blinks his eyes, and occasionally whistles or bites down. These are things he can’t control. He plays guitar, loves the NBA, and is pretty much a typical 8 year-old. He does not feel like a victim. He does however, want to spread awareness.
“Hollywood Tourette’s” is the name I have given to the mythological form of TS which is how it is portrayed in movies and television. I am super happy to debunk that myth. It’s just not like that. It’s not a joke. It is a struggle at times. It is also fascinating and awesome and is part of who my son is. Tourette Syndrome is not a taboo subject. It is a fairly common disorder with various levels of severity. The swearing tic is extremely rare, but still is not something I think is funny to laugh at. My son does not say swear words. I sure as hell do, but he does not. His tics are mostly motor.
It’s not just TS. There are all sorts of differences we can teach our kids about. Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, the list goes on and on. The point is, our kids don’t know about the things that they are not taught. Education is a game changer, and with it we may not be able to save the world…but we can at least help our children save each other.
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And yes, I use letters for the kids names, because like I said…I’m a crazy helicopter mother 🙂