Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

[Blink. Blink. Puff. Swallow.] Did she notice?

“My daughter has Tourette’s,” I explain. “So she might sometimes tic during lessons, or even during free time. [Blink.] Sometimes it’s worse during free time, actually. [Puff.] Because she’s so relaxed.”

Should I mention that I have it too? Is it obvious? Can she tell?

“What sort of tics?” the new teacher I’m interviewing asks, oozing buckets of compassion and a very clear no-problem-I’ve-seen-it-all-before attitude that blankets me in calm reassurance.

[Frown. Blink. Don’t twitch!]

“Mostly, she blinks,” I say. “It’s not very noticeable. When she’s stressed or angry or confused or concentrating hard or very relaxed or tired – or if she’s had too much wheat or sugar – she has vocal tics, too.”

[Swallow. Blink.] Thank God for sunglasses and people who like to sit outdoors. Even if the wind is unwinding my plait. And is that what’s making her hair so fuzzy? Does my hair look as fuzzy as that? Should I consider a different shampoo? I wonder what would work? Hmm … will it be expensive … ?

“Can you give me an idea of the kinds of tic sounds she makes, so that I can recognise them when they happen?” Her question interrupts my distracted thoughts, making me frown and twitch as I try to reign my brain in and focus on what actually matters. This is about Goldilocks.

“Tsp-tsp-tsp. There’s one like that. A kind of blowing one: plp-plp-plp. She swallows sometimes [does she? why did I say that? I can’t recall if it’s true or not! What kind of parent am I if I can’t even keep track of my daughter’s tics? Mind you, I can’t even keep track of my own! Oh dear – am I ticcing now? FOCUS!] She sometimes repeats the end of what someone else has said, and she’s got mild echolalia. It’s especially strong with the word ‘thanks’: nks-nks-nks’ … she doesn’t know she’s doing it, most of the time. Drawing attention to it makes it worse.”

tourettes can't be "turned off"

The fact is, she can’t control it. Well, she can – but only at great personal cost. We don’t tell people that it can be controlled, because then they’ll expect her to control it. They don’t know what they’re asking … but we do. So we don’t tell.

Some secrets are okay. If they help people.

Trying to keep the innocent falsehood from leaking all over my face is ramping up my tics. My mouth really wants to contort and I just know I’m going to have to get away for a private tic bomb pretty soon … hee hee … tic bomb .. ticka bomb … Trevor Noah and the Mad Indian Scientist skit … ha ha ha … I’m laughing on the inside and my brain is running away like a locomotive on acid.

Is it necessary to mention that she got Tourette’s from me? Is it as obvious as it feels? Does it help … or does it seem like a self-absorbed self-diagnosis? Does it matter if she knows or not? Is it relevant? Is it useful? Wait – what did she just say?

“One of new students is high-functioning autistic (I hate that term … but I love that she has some feeling for this space). And I’m sure my son would be somewhere on the spectrum … IF I ever had him tested. I’m not really all about the labels.”

Ah … relief floods my senses as I realise I’m not alone: she really does get it. Wait – labels? Is that judgement I sense? Is she judging me for labelling my kids? Have I labelled them? And is it wrong to have done so? Doesn’t it help me to give them the care they need?

“Don’t worry,” she reassures me, in that self-assured way that only seasoned educators can really nail. “This is a safe zone. No bullying of any kind will be tolerated. The truth is, these kids are here because they don’t fit the conventional education mould. And that’s how I work with them: at their pace, focused on what they’re interested in. You said she’s teaching herself to code? Can she bring her laptop so that she can do that here – maybe show some of the other kids who are interested?”

Do you ever stand outside of yourself, and just kinda watch? Do you look at what you’re thinking, and wonder why? And when you do, does it make you twitchy? Or is that just me? ‘Cause this was fairly normal, as my meetings go.


The week after next, Goldilocks is joining a homeschool collective. The teacher is very experienced in conventional teaching. But she’s also very experienced in life. With kids of all kinds and a good deal of close range exposure to life on the spectrum, she has enormous respect for allowing learning to unfold.

She’s very supportive of unschooling, and she understands our need to give Goldilocks a little more stimulation than just 12 hours of Sims every day. Armed with a laptop and surrounded by like-minded young people between the ages of 11 and 23 – not to mention all the animals our Fauna Fairy needs – I think this is the right thing for Goldilocks at the moment.

I hate to devolve my responsibility to someone else, but the plain truth is that I spend all day glued to my screen, and my darling daughter needs more than that. So let’s see how this works out.

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