Ken Shyminsky, a former vice president of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, draws upon his personal experiences as an teacher and student with Tourette Syndrome to help children with TS and related disorders. He also has Tourette himself and is the founder of the website Neurologically Gifted.
I have an weekday mid-afternoon alarm. It goes off everyday signaling the end of school. It is the sound of my son’s blood-curdling shriek the moment he is “home”. Home to Nate is the place in his world that he is free of scrutiny of others and he can let his guard down. The garage door opens, then shuts and it is as if the whole outside world disappears and he is transported magically to “home.”
Click, (the garage door), screech, “F**k” (in the loudest voice you can imagine), bang, bang, “F**k”, screech, bang then “Mom? Hi!”
This is my alarm. My signal that it is my turn. Nate’s turn is over and he has likely done an outstanding job. I no longer worry that his screaming and swearing will be heard by the neighbors. I no longer worry about the noise or the coprolalia.
He comes in to to the kitchen. “Hi Mom.” His backpack bumps the counter and he says, “F**k”, screeches and throws his backpack into the corner. He screeches again. Then “Sorry Mom”.
At this point I make a decision about whether I should ask him how his day was or if he has homework or if I should give him a hug and a kiss. I really want to do all of these things but I play it by ear.
“I had a rough day.” He tells me. He struggles to get his lunch bag out of his knapsack and ends up smashing it down on the counter in frustration at this simple task. Screech then a colossal “AHHHHHH!”, screech.
I wait for him to finish throwing his agenda and homework on the counter and move away from this aggravating task. I go in for the hug and kiss. I gently ask if the “situation” at school ended OK.
Nate generously offers a kiss. The hug he endures because he knows he should. I remove the force of my hug immediately after giving it to let him direct the duration of contact. He tells me in 10 words or less what “I had a rough day” means. He has usually sorted it out at school with the excellent support of his team.
He throws the next test at me. “Can I have a pop?” or “Can we go out for dinner?” or “Can we get a pony?” Whatever the question is doesn’t matter. He needs to ask me a question that he is sure I will have to say no to. He puts on his puppy dog eyes and stares at me with the look that if he could only have one wish ever this is what it would be.
I say, “No”. I don’t launch into an explanation of why I am saying no or ask questions or otherwise engage in the question. “Where would we keep a pony?” isn’t going to help. Just “No” and I move on.