Educating teachers on your tics is extremely important because if they understand what is going on, they are going to be more equipped to support you in school and they are less likely to be discriminatory towards you or react to your tics in an inappropriate manner. It is never your fault if a teacher sends you out of the class or discriminates against you in any way due to ticcing, but sometimes if they are more aware of what is going on it may be less likely to happen, but if it does then you know that they are doing it whilst knowing that they shouldn't, so that's even worse.
Ways To Educate Teachers About Tics:
1. At the beginning of the school year, you could email your teachers and explain that you have tics. You could say what helps and what doesn't help, and you could explain that your tics are unintentional, not a reflection of your character, and are uncontrollable. You could outline the kind of support that you will need in the class and say that you will enjoy spending the next academic year with them. If you do not have the teachers email addresses, or if you feel they may not listen to you, then you could ask the Special Educational Needs Coordinator to contact all of your teachers and inform them of your condition.
You never need to feel ashamed about telling people you have Tourette's, PANS, PANDAS, or any condition. It is completely appropriate to inform your teacher about your condition and they will likely be grateful that you are helping them understand. Some people may worry about whether any stigma around their conditions may influence how their teachers view them, but teachers are unlikely to judge or make assumptions as they have likely worked with many students with various conditions and differences, and acceptance is increasing.
2. You could type up a letter about your tics and how you would like teachers to react, and what teachers shouldn't do, and then put it in your pencil case. If you come across a substitute / cover teacher who may be unaware of your condition, then you could show them the letter before the class starts so they understand your tics, or you could show the letter to a teacher who is reacting to your tics in an unhelpful way so that they can understand more and stop reacting in an unhelpful manner.
3. Give your teachers a leaflet. Some Tourette's and PANS/PANDAS organizations have leaflets on the conditions. Please make sure that the leaflet is accurate and does NOT advocate tic suppression. Giving your teachers a leaflet gives them a chance to understand your condition and know how to support you best.
4. Challenge discrimination as soon as possible. You never deserve to be discriminated against or treated badly due to your tics or anything else. It is important to report discrimination as soon as you can to prevent it from happening again.
You could report an incident of this manner by talking to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator, who may be able to educate the teacher who is responsible. You could also report it to the headteacher, and get your parents to make a formal complaint. If they are not doing anything about the situation, then threaten to report the school's negligence to Ofsted, or the educational authority where you are.
If a teacher is aware that you have tics, they should not be allowed to get away with:
- Sending you out of class for ticcing. This is akin to sending a student out for being in a wheelchair.
- Telling you to stop ticcing, or to tic more quietly.
- Making nasty comments towards you.
- Refusing to accommodate your needs by not providing adjustments or access arrangements. The Equality Act states that 'reasonable adjustments' must be made.
- Punishing you for ticcing.
- Copying your tics.
Please report any instances of these occurring to a member of staff who has the capacity to deal with these concerns, situations, and complaints. You deserve better. Another member of staff may be able to speak to them about the incident to prevent it from happening again.
Never disrespect or purposefully insult a teacher for reacting to your tics in an unhelpful manner, as this makes the situation worse. Instead, stick up for yourself in a formal manner by saying "I have tics, they are an involuntary symptom. By doing this, you are discriminating against me on the basis of me having a disability. My tics are unintentional and I do not mean what I tic, they are misfired signals from my brain and are not a reflection of my character."Sticking up for yourself and educating others is important, for it could prevent another person with tics from facing the same issue from that teacher or member of staff.
5. Arrange a meeting with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator at the beginning of the school year, or whenever you start struggling more. This can allow a plan to be put in place regarding the support you may receive. The school may discuss the chance of needing to apply for higher needs funding or an Education, Health and Care Plan (UK). Accommodations that may help people with tics in a school, college, or university environment can include having half days on some days, having rest breaks during exams, having a time out card, being able to type on a word processor instead of writing with a pen, having extra time / extensions on exams, homework and assignments, and more.
It is important to know that you can ask for help whenever you need it, even if you feel guilty for it. Sometimes we may doubt ourselves and feel that we just need to 'try harder', but this is false. If you are considering asking for support, you likely need it. You are likely working a lot harder than your neurotypical peers just to get the same result, as you are dealing with neurological struggles such as tics, and possibly other symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, hyperactivity and more. This can make coping in the school environment and doing academic work extremely difficult. You are entitled to accommodations.
6. Have a small wallet sized card that briefly explains your tics. This can be helpful if someone stops you in a corridor, or even when walking to and from school, as it provides an easy way to make people aware that you cannot control the movements, noises, and verbal outbursts you may experience. This can be helpful as you may sometimes get 'stunned on the spot' and not know what to say when someone comes up to you, so this card allows you to explain it to others without needing to verbalize as much.
It can be helpful to educate your classmates about your tics so that they know what is going on and so that you can help create a more understanding and accepting generation. Sometimes, if classmates understand your condition then they may be less likely to be unkind about your tics. However, educating them may not completely stop negative reactions, it may prevent them if people are given the opportunity to understand.
Here are some ideas on ways to educate classmates about your tics:
1. Do a whole school or whole year group assembly. This can be daunting but very helpful. If you have tics which are loud, complex, and are very noticeable in corridors then it can be helpful to inform the whole school of what is going on when they see you tic. You could make a presentation or video and show it in the assembly. You could be brave and present it yourself or a teacher or advocate could do it for you or with you. This can raise a lot of awareness.
I recommend showing examples of how serious tics or the condition you have can be. You want to get the facts across, but you also want to get to the emotional side as that is what may make people realize that they shouldn't be teasing you for ticcing or seeing it all as a big joke. If people are able to see how distressing and disabling it can be to have tics then they may feel more guilt and remorse if they tease you for it and people may have more empathy, compassion and understanding towards you.
2. Do a class presentation. If you find it too daunting or if you feel it is unnecessary to do a whole school assembly, then you could do a mini class presentation just to make people aware of why you make movements and sounds you cannot control. This would be helpful to do at the beginning of the school year, or if your tics get worse in the middle of the year.
3. Report any instances of bullying, and if you are being bullied then be sure to work on building your confidence. Being bullied can have a dire impact on your self-esteem and confidence. As well as reporting bullying to get it dealt with by the school, it can be helpful to work on building your own confidence so that the bullying may not lower your self-esteem so much. You need to convince yourself that what the people are doing or saying is never appropriate, and that you have never deserved it. You can remember that it is better to be a person who tics than a person who is nasty to those who have differences, and that you cannot control your tics but others can control how they react. You are doing nothing wrong, the bullies are. Ensure that you have a good support network and talk to others in the community so that you can develop confidence in yourself and raise your own self-esteem whilst knowing that the things which others are bullying you for are never your fault.