Dear Mrs. Cameron,
I know, I know- you’re inundated with parent emails today- now that we know that you’ll be teaching our little darlings! I hated being swamped with parents and the demands the first week of school…
Which is why I’m not asking you to do anything- I just want you to know.
I wanted you to know that my son Ray will be in your class. Ray has Tourette’s Syndrome and anxiety disorder. That can mean a bunch of different behaviors, and this summer, he’s been spitting. He CANNOT control it, anymore than we can control a sneeze or a hiccup- which is to say that he can sometimes control it, but it takes away from his concentration on other things. I have been asking him to use a Kleenex to spit into to reduce the impact on others, but he hates it. I want you to know that he hates having Tourette’s.
I want you to know that the spitting has been declining, but a new one will start soon- these tics- the head jerks, eye rolling, throat clearing, etc- wax and wane. As one goes away, another one takes its place.
I want you to know that he’s very bright- stronger than Elizabeth in many respects. So, he is not on a 504 or in special education because there is no academic impact… yet. He’s also not in gifted because the anxiety shuts him down and to try and fail would hurt more than not trying. We’re working with him on that. I want you to know that I am heartsick that he is not getting services that can help him with his challenges, or services that can help him develop his significant abilities, but I that I do know how kind and thoughtful and challenging you were with Elizabeth last year, so that I have relief knowing that he’s with you. I want you to know that he has a hilarious sense of humor that is pretty sophisticated, but tends to show it in writing rather than out loud. He’s a brilliant kid, but he’s not going to show it off- you have to really look for it.
I want you to know that he LOVES affection- that is private. He HATES, HATES being the center of attention, but side bar hugs will make him yours forever. Ignore the pulling away and the grunts. He’s shy and anxious, not withdrawn and needs you to initiate the first move.
What I want you to know is, please, please:
1) Don’t draw attention to his tics- drawing attention to them makes it worse. And please, please don’t yell at him or attempt to correct it- it is something that cannot be corrected.
2) Work with me on managing its effects… sometimes, like the Kleenex trick, there are ways that he can manage it
3) Don’t let anyone make fun of him. He’s pretty good at saying he has Tourette’s, but he really doesn’t have the self-advocacy skills to stand up for himself… yet.
*** What I wanted to write was, “And I will defend him if anyone DARES to hurt my baby”… but I didn’t. ***
I want you to know that he has asked that you and I not tell anyone… yet. He’s on medication and the symptoms are less now than they were at the beginning of the summer. He’s hoping that no one notices. However, at the end of last year, he was almost ready for me to give Mrs. Lane a fabulous video called “I have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s doesn’t have me“, put out by the National Tourette’s Association. He’s eight years old, and can almost pass… he’s not ready for self-advocacy.. yet.
I want you to know that he wants you to know, but he doesn’t want me to talk about it with you in front of others… hence the email.
I want you to know that he’s such a good kid and with positive feedback, he will work his heart out for you.
I’ll see you this afternoon when I pick him up from his first day of school- where we will not talk about it. :) But I wanted you to know…
Update: Mrs. Cameron wrote the loveliest note back and wanted to know more about Tourette’s and what she can do to make him feel comfortable. We’re off to a good start!