Education and Learning disorders, challenges, and glitches.
If you are an adult with TS and taking any courses or programs, or a parent of a child with TS this post could be of interest to you. My first recommendation is to GET TESTED. Especially if it is your child, because once you have a firm diagnosis there is help for you and or your child to succeed! Not having a diagnosis often ends in frustration and failure, set yourself and your child up to succeed when possible. Testing is often covered by schools, but when not, it is still especially important to do if your child or you are struggling.
One thing we know about TS, is that it comes with a grab bag of associated conditions also known as comorbids. Often these conditions can be more of a problem than the actual Tourette Syndrome. I am talking about ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, OCD, behavior and conduct problems, anxiety, sensory disorder, social skills issues, processing delays, disinhibitions, executive disfunction, and so on. Let me break some of these down for you.
- Dysgraphia: This is related to handwriting and is quite common. Often it looks like messy writing, spacing issues *words or letters too close or too far apart*, spelling, punctuation, slow or difficulty actually writing, difficulty copying or making notes, difficulty writing out thoughts, pain when trying to write, etc.
So what can you do if you think you or your child has dysgraphia? Some things that have been found to help are to work with computers, tablets, e-readers, and technical devices rather than pen and paper. Removing the need to physically write things by hand can greatly reduce problems in education related to this issue. If paper and pencil are a must, graph paper can go a LONG way for helping with this, one letter per box, two boxes empty between words, and so on. This will not “Resolve” it, but it does often help.
2. Dyscalculia: This is related to math and is also quite common (I have this). Often this will look like difficulty counting backward, difficulty remembering facts and formulas, taking longer to complete calculations, difficulty understanding/performing values and estimations, difficulty with place values, difficulty converting from decimal to percent to fractions, difficulty learning to tell time, difficulty with special reasoning/imagining/manipulation, etc.
So what can you do? There are a lot of ways to help with this! Color coding notes (this is particularly helpful if you have a system for example when calculating area? One color is length, another is width, another is height. Draw the shape and outline the lines in the corresponding color, when working with the formula color code the numbers to match!
Again, graph paper REALLY helps to align numbers, keep notes, etc.
Use manipulatives (you can buy shapes for mathematics online or in learning stores and by having a physical representation of the shape we are working with REALLY helps to understand the math behind it!
Most of all, ask for accommodations, especially in exams! Some could be that you get more time to write your exam or turn in assignments, you have a sheet of formulas! You do not need to memorize them, just know how to do them. Another it to take in your color pencils and graph papers! Another is a multiplication table (if they wont let you take the graph paper and multiplication table into an exam make the first thing you DO when you sit – draw a graph you can use to do calculations, and write out your multiplication table, etc. having them ready immediately will speed the time up solving problems, it’s worth the time upfront. Be your own advocate!
3. OCD: this can show in many forms! (I have this)
What can you do? Communication is key! Let the school/teachers/support staff know, and what the challenges are such as: trouble writing exams in a room with others, not enough time for assignments and exams, using a computer or tablet, etc. This one will be specific to you or your child, know your issues and communicate them, then ask for accommodations.
4. ADHD: this can also show in many forms! (I have this) More commonly: distractibility, hyperactivity, inattention, social immaturity and impulsivity, executive dysfunction, memory issues, behavioral issues, distracting others, and being “class clown” for lack of better term.
What can you do? Again, communication is key! Let the school/teachers/support staff know what your challenges are and ask for accommodations.
5. Executive Dysfunction: This often shows in time management issues, goals and planning issues, organization problems, breaking down big assignments into steps, sequencing problems, handling changes/transitions, and memory.
What can you do? You will sense a theme here! Always number one is talk to the school! Let them know what your struggles are and ask for accommodations. Beyond that I would recommend a calendar or planner (paper or digital is fine), check lists, and apps/programs to help with reminders and organizations. You may need more external support to create strategies that work and can involve a lot of trial and error.
6. Processing disorder: (I have this) This usually shows in confusion, difficulty following directions, difficulty breaking directions into steps, memory issues, delayed response especially to verbal questions or teachings, problems with sounds and words that are similar, following conversations, etc.
What can you do? Make notes! Date them, time stamp them, keep them in order in a notebook. Ask for assignments and tasks to be provided on paper or email rather than verbally! With Processing disorder, having a copy of things provided makes a huge difference! Ask for extra time for assignments and exams, as well as for responding If it is a group discussion (have them save you for last so you can parse info and hear what others say and plan your response!), keep directions brief, or in steps that you can follow one after another (again in writing or on paper/tablet rather than verbal!), always let them know if you need more clarification! Ask for support and accommodations.
7. Sensory processing disorder: (you all KNOW I have this) presents in many ways but some of the most common are sensitivities to textures (fabrics, clothing, foods, etc), sounds (tapping, nasal voices, whistling, high pitched sounds etc.), lights (too bright, too cool, too warm, flickers, too dark), smells (perfumes are brutal, wet dishcloths, grass, etc.), stimulating tics such as picking skin or scabs, chewing things, pulling hair, scratching self, hitting self, touching others, etc.
What can you do? Figure out the triggers, work your best within them such as: socks with seams cause irritation? Get seamless socks! Texture of gelatinous foods? Move toward crunchy foods. Etc. ALSO inform the school and ask for support, it can get quite overwhelming and people might not understand this one. Ask for accommodations: noise cancelling headset, quiet space, moving desk to a different position, sunglasses, etc. You will need to figure this one out with trial and error, but it IS manageable.
8. Social skills and disinhibition: these ones are also obvious and often need psychologists to assist in working with some of these behaviors. There are some therapies that do seem to help, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). Talk to your school, ask for help and accommodations.
Of course, everything here is just a brushing of what it can look like, what bag of tricks you/your child might have, and how to help work with them. I will forever and always say this.
- Get diagnosed – no matter what age – this step does matter!
- Disclose your struggles to the school! – this enables them to help you and do so with compassion
- Ask for accommodations and help!
- ALWAYS advocate for yourself and your child! (and teach your child to self-advocate too~)
- Take good care of yourself. <3
Hope this helps, thanks for reading!