032: Special Needs Children: A New Diagnosis, Tourettes!

by | Oct 25, 2021

Hello, my homeschool tribe, and welcome to this spectacular Halloween episode!

So, how are we going to end our ADHD Awareness Month? By talking about one of the comorbidities of ADHD. Remember, comorbidities are when another medical condition presents itself together with another condition. So, in this case, we’re going to be talking about Tourettes. 

Why am I talking about Tourette’s? Well, because just when we thought we had ADHD figured out, Tourettes emerged its ugly little head!

Now it started very lowkey. My daughter, who has ADHD, started blinking her eyes. We did notice that medications seemed to make it worse, but my daughter is minimally medicated. She’s not on a time-release medication. She’s on a short-acting medication. She was only under it for four hours out of the day. The rest of the day, she was free willing, and we would focus on behavior. 

But just recently, it seems to be getting a little bit worse, and her new psychiatrist talked us into trying a new medication. And just when we thought things were going to be okay, things went from being okay to puff! Nothing was working! So, now we have twitching of the neck, movements, sounds.  I didn’t even realize that Tourettes could involve even more than one body part. So, here we go again, figuring this out and meeting a new challenge.

So, what exactly is Tourettes Syndrome? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Tourette’s syndrome is a nervous system condition. A person can have involuntary motor tics, such as the blinking of the eyes, twitching of the neck, vocal tics, whistling, clicking, word repetition. Simple tics involve a few parts of the body. More complex tics can involve everything—vocal, several parts of the body. And people who have ADHD often develop Tourette’s Syndrome. 

We are getting medical help for our child. But the reality is that when it comes to Tourette, medication is very limited. Some therapists were better on some kids than others, better on some adults. The doctors assured us that Tourette worsens during adolescence and typically tapers off as the child ages. But we all know that there are cases in which this doesn’t happen. Tourette becomes a lifetime challenge for some children. 

Now you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? You’re homeschooling. How much of a challenge can this be when you can control so much of the environment? Is this truly a challenge for a homeschooler?”

And the answer is, yes, it is. For example, in my child’s case, even though she’s a gifted mathematician, the tics start as soon as we start math. Math always stresses her out. I’m not sure why because she does really well. 

Temperature is also a challenge. If my daughter gets too hot or she gets too cold, it triggers the tics. And of course, sometimes, despite my intervention, we can’t get the tics to stop, and it does become painful. You know, your neck can only twitch in one direction so many times before it starts to hurt.

And of course, like anything else, my kid could use it to try to get out of doing her work. Now, I shouldn’t say this on this podcast in case my daughter decides to hear it. But for example, when the tic is genuine, she tends to tic on the right side. When she’s faking it, she does it on the left side. Children… They’re so creative. Aren’t they? We always have to stay a step ahead of them. 

So, what is the homeschooling parent to do under these circumstances? Well, I do my best to control the stressors. I do my best to keep, for example, the environment at a good temperature, so it’s not too hot or too cold. I do my very best not to lose my temper even when she’s acting out, not the Tourettes but the ADHD or just being a sassy teenager. She is a teenager. She’s entitled to go through the process of sassiness. Right? 

And for my daughter, there mustn’t be many surprises. So, I try to be structured about my schedule. When I’m going to improvise or adapt something, I try to give her notice so that it’s easy for her to assimilate it. She really doesn’t handle surprises well. I’m not criticizing. I’m the same way. I have found that it’s all in our best interest if I attempt to work with my Tourette’s child, and frankly my anxious child to distress subjects, to take breaks. As it is, it’s difficult to just plow through something. It’s far more interesting if you take little breaks in between and your mind is fresh and open to learning. 

I also insisted on my children having an A average because they really didn’t have any chores. They were allowed to have as many or as few extracurricular activities as they wanted, and they were allowed to be children. But the expectation was that they were going to do very well in school. We’ve loosened up that expectation. Just as a lot of parents are becoming more demanding because we are starting the high school years. And, of course, being concerned about college entrance exams and college applications. But when you have special needs children, you need to be flexible. 

Sometimes I find myself in a situation where I still expect a certain level of performance or expect my daughter to do a project. Still, if we’re going through a difficult moment, I give them additional time to complete it. And keep in mind that even in a university setting, there will be certain accommodations for children with special needs. 

I do my best to make sure that my kids stay on track, but not at the expense of their well-being. There’s a balancing act, and I know you’re going to tell me that’s a tough one. Yes, it is! Some days it’s tougher than others, but we do our best to make it work. We really do our best to try to make it work. Sometimes, if the tics are mild, we just pretend they’re not even there. We just keep going. And when I say “we,” I mean, my daughter will just keep going. 

If I asked her, “Do you need a break?” 

She’ll say, “Nope. It’ll be okay. I’m okay.” 

Just like other times, she will say, “Mom… Mom… I need a break. I need a nap,” and I accommodate for that. 

We, as a family, do our best to create a supportive social circle for our child. And this can be very difficult when your child has Tourettes.  Other kids will stare at them, other kids will not understand, and some parents don’t understand to be frank with you. They think it’s weird, and they will make very negative comments. So, we do our best to create a social circle where kids are more sophisticated and accept my children’s challenges and supportive parents. And that’s really important because it gives my children a sense of normalcy.

There is no question that this is a situation in which I often feel helpless as a parent. I wish I could do more. But I can’t. I’m limited on what I can do. But what I can do, I do, do it. For example, my kids spend part of their time with a co-op. I no longer run it. I retired from co-ops. But here, what I did was I did speak to the kids beforehand. I asked my daughter if she was comfortable with that, and she said that she was. But I think I would have had to speak with those kids anyhow, even if my daughter was not comfortable because there were going to be situations in which my daughter’s tics would overwhelm her. She would not be able to suppress them. 

It’s always better, or at least in my case, I have always found that it’s better if I introduce people to the idea that this is going to happen or that this could happen, rather than waiting for it to happen. People react much better when they know that the potential is there. 

I also spend a lot of time encouraging my daughter not to focus on other people’s opinions. I recently read a quote that said, “My path to heaven is not through your backyard.”

I remind my daughter of that. People’s opinions of us are often not accurate. And frankly, a lot of the time, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in their lives, more than it reflects what’s going on in our lives or what we could have done or didn’t do. 

I also assure her that the right people will accept and love her for who she is. You know, this last month, you’ve heard me talk a lot about my autistic tendencies. But I have to tell you, I struggled to read social cues, that people think I’m strange, and there’s no question I am different. I sometimes have some really unpleasant social experiences because people don’t understand how difficult it is to socialize. 

Still, I am blessed with some wonderful friends! My friend Renee is in California. My friend Sheri is in North Carolina. My friend Wendy is in North Carolina. My soul sister Ilenia is in Florida. My friend that I miss so much is Marina, who was in Florida and moved to California! I’m so jealous! I wish I could have been there with her. And I’m making some new friends in the Caribbean, meeting some new wonderful people. Absolutely wonderful people! 

They know I’m weird—whatever that means—and they still like me. I’m blessed with a wonderful husband and beautiful children. And I remind her of that. I shared with her how lonely I sometimes felt when I was her age. I thought I would never have the life that I built with others because I wanted her to understand that life can be absolutely beautiful despite the challenges. 

And that applies not just to my child with Tourette’s and ADHD, to my child with anxiety, to my child that doesn’t suffer from any of these things. It applies to all of us. Eventually, we find the right people in life who love us and appreciate us exactly for who we are.

So, as a homeschooling parent, what can I say to you? Do the best you can to accommodate that neurodivergent, atypical neurological development of your children. Remember, our ability to improvise and adapt allows us to thrive. It’s definitely one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling!

Now before I forget, as I did in the previous episode. Let’s thank Hydrofeet for sponsoring this podcast! Hydrofeet—the insole that massages your feet with every step! Don’t forget to use the code OMB15OFF  for an additional 15% off at Hydrofeet.com.

Remember, when you make your purchase, if you pay for additional shipping and handling, they will send you a second pair that doesn’t have to be the same size or style as the other. So, you could get one for yourself and one for your kids. You could get a pair for your tennis shoes, and a pair for your pumps. Whatever it is that floats your boat. I have tons of these, and I just absolutely love them!

Never forget and always remember that life can be overwhelming, but homeschooling doesn’t have to be! Please go to Facebook and search for Homeschooling with Dr. B, find our support group, and join! Or you can check out the link at our website. Till next week! Enjoy your kiddos!

 

 

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