Day 6: Tourette Awareness 2020

Day 6: Tourette Awareness 2020

Employment with Tourette Syndrome.

This is a big, tricky topic that I can never cover fully. Since you do not outgrow TS, there are many fresh out of school young adults, as well as many older adults trying to figure out how to navigate these choppy waters. Some questions that arise are when to disclose, how to disclose, accommodations, and bullying. Of course, that is just a drop in the bucket, but I think a good place to start.

First, I will say that there is no one right answer to these questions! Every human who has TS has their very own special grab bag of goodies. There are a LOT of general similarities for people who have TS, difference can arise in how someone tics, what their comorbidities are and what line of work they are in, these things and more will all create different answers.

Most people with Tourette syndrome are able to work. Tourette Syndrome can be anywhere on the scale between mild and severe and is very different for each person. Someone with mild TS might be able to work in a very public facing job for example, where someone with severe Tourette syndrome might have a harder time in a public facing job (or it might be perceived by an employer that they would have a harder time in a public facing job and therefore eliminate that option before they are even given a chance).

It can be quite scary the first few times you attempt to navigate finding new employment. So much of it is up in the air, and of course every country has different laws around disability and what the protections are against discrimination and accommodation. It can be helpful to learn the laws where you live.

Disclosure is one of the biggest questions people with any disability face… and there really is no perfect time to disclose. Go with your gut is what I say. Typically, I do not (and advise you not to) disclose before you have an interview, show up to your interview, be confident! If you have more severe TS once you have introduced yourself and taken your seat to start the interview you can take a moment to let the interviewer know. If you do need to go this route, it can be helpful if you say it calmly (so practice this at home for a bit!) “Before we start this interview, I wanted to take a moment to tell you that I have Tourette Syndrome, so if you see me making weird movements or faces, or if I make any unusual noises, please ignore them as they do not affect my job performance at all”. If you have more mild TS, you can wait for a more opportune moment to introduce the topic, if they ask about strengths you could use that as an opening, or if they ask you what you can bring to the team, etc. Make it positive!

You can also choose to not disclose until you are offered a position, this would help if you needed to try and prove discrimination after disclosure (as in they offer you a position and then you disclose and suddenly they go another way”), however it is a tough battle.

Tourette Syndrome is classed as a disability in Canada, which means it also comes with protections against discrimination. In the USA TS is also protected by the ADA but can be complex if you do not have it on record as a disability… loopholes. It helps to read the disability laws where you live. In particular, you need to look at discrimination in the workplace. That said, if you have to fight for a job that does not see your value based on having Tourette Syndrome, there is a good chance they would find ways to make your life suck (bully you) if they were forced to hire you/keep you on, so I would consider going somewhere that sees your value in that case.

We all know with TS can be hard to hide our tics, and it can be hard for people to look past tics when they are thinking of employing you. Discrimination happens and can be hard to prove. SO, when job hunting do your best to stay calm, know your worth, and make your choices carefully. Water the seed you want to grow, pick your battles, and find the employer that knows you are an asset.

Thanks for reading!

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