When my son was labeled with Tourette’s Syndrome, it was a relief to know it wasn’t something more “serious.”
It’s just some quirky disease, with a rare few having a severe, life-altering case, right?
Gratefully, my son has a moderate case of Tourette’s Syndrome (TS, for short).
In the early years, his tics were simple: eye squinting, blinking, facial grimacing, short vocal sounds, or throat clearing.
The tics gradually became more complex and distracting as time went on: pressing his hair down several times an hour, arm flapping, longer and more distracting vocal tics, and two body part tics, such as squishing his nose, then pursing his lips. The tics became more noticeable, and even frustrating for him, at times.
I learned early on that my “quirky, nervous, little guy” is one of the sweetest souls you’ll ever meet. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. That’s why it pained me to send him to school where he was imitated, questioned, ridiculed, and embarrassed due to his tics, and not just by the children. We followed his psychiatrist’s orders to continue “upping” his medicine, trying stimulants and anti-psychotics like they were candy. Our son turned into a boy that I no longer recognized. Yes, his tics were less frequent, yes, he was less distracting to the other students, and yes, he was able to focus on his schoolwork easier.
But the cost? He lost his soul. My sweet boy was gone, and in his place was a zombie-like child who followed directions and sat still. It took longer than I want to admit, but my husband and I finally decided that we would not put our son through a drug-induced life anymore. We ignored the doctor’s advice, and threw out all the psych meds. In hindsight, I don’t recommend this course of action. We were desperate, and took desperate actions. For his sake, I regret not weaning him off the drugs more gradually. We were lucky that he didn’t have serious side effects, such as suicidal tendencies that many children suffer as they come off the meds.
But, our boy came back. He came back! It was literally a miraculous transformation. The boy we once knew was back.
Along with our boy came the obsessive thoughts, the compulsivity, the anxiety, depression, and eventually, the tics. In full force. But we have never second-guessed our decision. We have our son back. I can’t put into words how we felt when our son again expressed emotions, was up and down, like a regular boy! I don’t want to sugar-coat the challenges, but it was worth it, tenfold.
About that same time, we decided that it was best to homeschool our son. Public school was no longer an option, if we wanted to preserve his sanctity and innocence. It was also a no-brainer. I’m not a public school basher, as I believe there are many amazing public school teachers, and some children, even those with TS can excel, even thrive. But our son needed to decompress, he needed time to become comfortable in his own skin. Public school was not the place for him.
Over the years, he has learned to ignore his tics, when needed, such as when he is reading or studying. Since tics are like hiccups or sneezes, uncontrollable, there is no way to have power over them, but he has learned to not let them overpower him. He still gets frustrated, he still gets questioned, and he still gets embarrassed, at times. But those times are fewer and further apart. Maybe he’ll outgrow the tics, maybe he won’t…but I don’t worry about that anymore. He is who is his…and he is comfortable in his own skin.
That’s all I could ever ask for.