first say how blown away I was to read your email. In my initial scan
I gathered that you were a mother of a child with TS requesting strategies
around helping her son keep focused. Only when I took a closer look
did I see the special nature of your communication. The world needs
more of you, L.R. Thank you -- not just for who you are, but for who
you will mold through your influence.
many details around this situation I'll try to suggest a few things
and hopefully one will hit the mark:
son and this boy have only very recently been seated together, the first
thing I would suggest is to give it a little bit of time before making
any decisions. I have found (to my utter and ongoing amazement) that
people seem to grow accustomed or "habituate" to my tics after
a short period of time: they seem to be able to simply 'filter me out'
similar to how an individual 'filters out' the ticking of a new clock,
or street noise. Last week I completed a 4-month internship rotation
where the office space was "open" -- a colleague had only
a divider between herself and I. I queried her regarding the TS as I
am rather loud and vocal. She admitted to me that she had been VERY
concerned at the onset: she has distractibility problems and wasn't
sure how she would cope. It came as a surprise to her how quickly she
no longer noticed what I was doing. I even had another colleague say
she has grown so fond of my tics she is going to miss them now that
I'm gone!! :-)
that this ability to filter out the tics is facilitated when the bothered
individual knows about and understands the TS. If a person believes
that the disruptions are volitional, stem from inconsideration or outright
rudeness etc. the opposite to the above can occur -- each tic grates
on the nerves more and more until unfortunate confrontations inevitably
son and this boy have been seated together for some time and your son's
difficulties in concentrating have persisted to a detrimental point,
some different things could be tried. Ear plugs during quiet work. Angling
your son's desk or the way in which he sits slightly so that this boy
is not in his line of sight. Teaching your son a "poker face"
-- to completely ignore the tics. The more one thinks about one's tics
(including NOT doing them) the worse they get. The more emotion one
puts into one's tics (such as being embarrassed or self-conscious) the
worse they get. Symptoms (and, hence, disruptions) can therefore be
at least minimized by paying them absolutely no heed whatsoever.
honestly I am leery to suggest too many things for your son to do because,
bluntly, it is not his problem. My instinct is to say that if all of
the above fails there is nothing at all inappropriate about changing
seating. In fact it seems to me that in not doing so an unfortunate
message would be sent to all: the rights of a person with a disorder
supercede those who do not. They do not. Responsibility for one's own
issues is a persistent thread in my work. For instance, my next internship
rotation will be in a complex with paper thin walls and assessments
going on in all rooms. Some frank discussions with my supervisors around
how we will deal with this have ensued, and one of the potential solutions
is for me to work in an office physically segregated from this complex.
I suppose I could be offended and mount a soap box at this suggestion,
except for one thing. IT MAKES SENSE! And it is my onus to recognize
that and to not interpret the suggestion as discriminatory or evidence
that I am not liked.
in mind, I can envision how your son's seat (or this other boy's) may
be moved without awkwardness while still maintaining the friendship
and teaching an important lesson around accountability to boot. It would
need to be clearly articulated that no one is bad, and no one is in
trouble either. Just as this boy has difficulty inhibiting his noises
and movements, your son has difficulty tuning out the distractions.
Your son understands and accepts this boy regardless, and hopes that
this boy can do so as well. It is as simple and as matter-of-fact as
much hope this helps L.R., and thank you again for writing.