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Teaching someone with Tourette Syndrome

Rockley College teacher Mark talks about his experience of teaching a student with Tourette's for the first time - the varying strategies he has adopted, the ups, the downs, the laughter and how they got each other through lockdown. 

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"Annie joined us in September after the first COVID lockdown, making us aware of a series of new behavioural tics. In what can be a particular nervous period for all students, starting a new course, surrounding themselves with new classmates, teachers and surroundings, Annie had potentially more reason than most to be slightly apprehensive as she was still coming to terms with an undiagnosed series of changing tics.

"However, from day one Annie has been herself and thrown herself into all aspects of the course. She has shown a real determination to not let her battle with her ever changing tics effect her progress in the classroom and on the water. Very quickly Annie’s outburst became just a normal aspect of the groups daily sessions and I’ve been so impressed with both how she has owned her tics, but also how the other students have all reacted so maturely and sensitively.

"Working with the teaching team, Annie and her parents, we have been trying a range of different strategies to assist Annie in feeling comfortable whilst in college and to ensure that her learning is not negatively impacted. These haven’t all been perfect but we continue to research into potential ideas and try things out, especially now that Annie has a diagnosis.

"Being forced into another lockdown throughout winter, I had concerns in how this would effect Annie. During this time I was able to keep in regular contact online with Annie, in what was originally planned as a well being check-in. Before long, these catch ups became the highlight of my lockdown working week, breaking up my days of online lessons and marking. She is probably unaware, as it was meant to be me that was keeping her spirits high and on track, but the opposite was happening as well. Seeing how she was remaining positive and working hard was a real high point for me in those difficult couple of months.

"I’m unsure if it is despite of, or because of, her battles with her tics over the past year, but Annie is genuinely one of the most resilient and go-getting students I have had the pleasure to teach. We have a few low days that we have come to accept will happen, but her positive approach is infectious to us all, and sense of humour around some of her tics is a joy. I am never going to be able to watch “the bake off” again in the same way, after watching one of Annie’s tic filled baking videos. The end result is always exceptional, but the process on this occasion was unintentional hilarious.

"I am constantly amazed at how Annie hasn’t let her tics effect her, I can’t imagine how hard it must be developing new tics as 17 year old girl, most I am sure would not have coped so well, socially and academically."

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