Accommodation for Students with Tourette’s at School

updated on 29 November 2021

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In this article, I will talk about the common adjustments teachers can make in the classroom to support students with Tourette syndrome. A neurological disorder, Tourette’s causes motor and vocal tics, which are involuntary movements and sounds. The severity of Tourette’s and the complexity of tics will change from one student to another. For instance, some students may twitch their nose or click their tongue, while others may spin uncontrollably or blurt out obscene words. Students can also develop new tics and the symptoms of Tourette’s will wax and wane, making it unpredictable for both the student and teacher.     

Year 4 student Steven describes Tourette’s as ‘random’ and explains why it makes him feel anxious at school. His father Micheal recalls a time when Steven’s tics were so severe that it resulted in him breaking his front teeth. Teacher Miley Evans advocates for a safe space in the school that students with Tourette’s can feel comfortable retreating to when they are experiencing a problematic day. Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia wrote an article on the main misconceptions about his disease. 

Top five takeaways

Remember that Tourette’s is unpredictable; however, stress is a known trigger. So, take active steps within your classroom to reduce the level of concern a student experiencing Tourette’s may have. You can minimize anxiety in the learning environment by addressing the underlying restlessness students can feel. Using sensory toys, spinners, elastic bands, and stress balls will allow a student to overcome a difficult period and anxiety

Students with Tourette’s find executive functioning skills such as organization and planning difficult. Students will find transitions particularly stressful. To help with this, build some kind of structure in the lesson. By providing plenty of information and guidance about expectations and what’s coming up, and by creating a sense of familiarity, you can help a student manage their stress levels. Along with preparation, it’s important to give transition warnings ahead of changes taking place. Then, allow the student reasonable time to get prepared.

Build regular breaks into your daily routine. It’s important to factor in frequent opportunities for movement for a student with Tourette’s – so make this an essential part of your schedule. You can also build in incidental activity, such as getting the student with Tourette’s to perform errands that allow them to walk around. Movement enables students to become refreshed and helps them focus on their learning once they return to the classroom. 

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