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Tourette Awareness, ICSD

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The petition was a resounding success! The presentation took place today, October 7. Thank you all for your support.

The presenter, Sue Conners, started with an interactive discussion about differences (e.g. hair color, eye color), and acceptance and support of differences. Then she elicited information from the students about medical differences such as asthma and diabetes, and asked them to imagine what it must feel like to need to use an asthma inhaler.

When Sue asked the students if they had noticed anything unusual about her, some observant students raised their hands and were able to describe certain movements and sounds Sue had been making from time to time. She explained that she has Tourette Syndrome, a disorder of the brain that causes unplanned movements and vocalizations called tics.

The grand finale of the assembly came as my son gave Sue a pre-arranged hand signal to show her that he and his buddy felt comfortable coming up to help with the presentation. She asked them to help her demonstrate how Tourette's can get in the way of academics -- and life in general. The buddy held the microphone while my son showed how a foot-tapping tic can slow you down when you're trying to ask your buddy how his weekend was.

What a great way to celebrate Bullying Prevention Month (October) -- through Tourette awareness and understanding!

The students showed a great deal of empathy, support and understanding.

For more information about Tourette Syndrome:


The original petition:

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is an oft-misunderstood neurological condition characterized by unpredictable movements and sounds, known as tics, which the person with TS can’t help doing (grimacing, head jerking, shouting, etc.). TS is a condition which often subsides at the end of adolescence. As a result, the vast majority of people with TS are children.

We, the undersigned, urge the Ithaca City School District (ICSD) to permit:

-- that a Tourette Awareness presentation be given to fellow students, when so requested by the parents of a student with Tourette Syndrome (TS);

-- and that the student with TS be permitted to choose whether to give the presentation him/herself, or to invite a trained Tourette Syndrome Association (TSA) representative to give the presentation. The TSA does not charge schools a fee for providing these presentations.

Such a presentation is a key strategy in helping a student with Tourette Syndrome be successfully included in the regular education classroom. Kathleen Giordano, the education specialist for the TSA writes:

"As the Education Specialist for the national TSA, I have been assisting families and schools attempt to understand the complexities of Tourette Syndrome and the common related disorders associated with it for many years.

"Peer in-services have been proven over the years to be a best practice strategy for many reasons.

"It is critical that a student’s classmates understand that physical and vocal tics are not intentional, and are not meant to be disruptive. With this understanding, TS symptoms are then ‘normalized.’ The normalizing of symptoms allows for acceptance of differences for many disabilities.

"Just as importantly, when a child with TS knows that people understand his/her symptoms, it significantly reduces anxiety which typically results in a decrease of symptoms and/or the need to suppress symptoms. It is common for students with TS to suppress symptoms because they are embarrassed and don’t want to be seen as being different. Additionally, attempts at suppressing symptoms require a great deal of energy and concentration resulting in a reduced ability to pay attention to the academics of a classroom.

"By educating peers to symptoms and normalizing TS, teachers can then more readily ignore symptoms that otherwise might require a reprimand. Ignoring symptoms is the number one strategy TSA recommends to parents and educators. Embarrassing or punishing a child for symptoms of a disability is not only denying his/her civil rights, but generally has a negative impact on the symptoms/behaviors."

For more info, please see the Highlights section.

Thank you!

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