Transitioning to Boarding School with Tourette Syndrome

By Sree Lakkamraju

As someone who’s received a public school education almost all my life, the prospect of attending an academic institution like The Peddie School was intimidating. My application was originally as a day student, but I was accepted as a boarding student because of the limited available seats the school had. The idea of living on a college-style campus with strangers and teachers was foreign to me, but I was more concerned about my tics and having a roommate. I’m glad to say that the transition, while rocky, was successful and I am much happier and thriving here. I learned in the past few months that there are several pros and cons to being a boarding student, and I’ll explain how they affected me and my tics negatively and positively. 

– Living in close quarters/roommate (vocal tics)
– Public dining 3x everyday  
– Concentration levels after school ends 

– Less of a crowd/smaller & quieter classes
– More open space/room
– Frequent trips to my dorm in between classes to relax/personal space
– Better relationships with my teachers
– Freedom and independence from home and my family
– A fresh start

I’ll keep the cons brief. I’m lucky to have a suite-style room where there is a common space, and separate bedrooms. If I absolutely have to, I tic in my room and muffle vocal tics with a pillow or blanket. My roommate isn’t always in our dorm,  but the paper thin walls don’t always muffle my tics for other dorm members. Public dining isn’t a huge issue, but when my “darting eyes” tic gets triggered, I may sometimes stare at random people or crane my head, pretending to look for someone. The most impactful con is my attention span after school ends. We have mandatory activities after school, and it was a bit of a challenge during field hockey season. I had various tics on the field during a game, and didn’t notice when the other team passed by with the ball or took it from me. While my team and coaches were understanding, it is much easier with a quieter sport like fencing. My attention span with TS is already short enough, but when I’m by myself it gets tricky to focus on assignments and studying. I don’t have my parents around me anymore to keep me on track, but that’s how I get better at discipline and holding myself accountable.

My new school has a colossal campus incorporated with nature and open space. I used to almost always be indoors, but being outside makes the boarding experience more enjoyable. The same thing goes for my classes. There’s less students and quieter learning environments, thus  improving my concentration and comfortability. I’m grateful for the trips to my dorm during free blocks because it’s now second nature for me to either go find a study room in the library or just work from the comfort of my bed. Not only is it quiet, but it reduces any stress-inducing factors. I had a negative teacher experience which played a role in my transfer. She  called out my tics in front of other students which I found inconsiderate, and my peers and I had a lot of stress from her class in general. I’m much happier with my current teachers, all of whom are accommodating with extra time and patience. Lastly, I’m appreciative that my new school has given me an opportunity in the form of a fresh start. I have independence from my family and no one there knew me;  I could go into the school year judgment free.

All in all, I’ve settled in fairly quickly and I’m much happier here than my old school. Although there was pressure while I was getting settled in, there’s less stress in terms of tics and social settings. I made great new friends, I have a more profound interest in my education, I have the freedom I always wanted, and developed a passion for TS advocacy. I know I wouldn’t have been as aware of the impact TS has on the lives of others as well as myself, if I hadn’t applied to a new school. Similarly, the common applications I filled out during the admissions process introduced me to new ideas and mindsets. Without the school, I don’t think I would have accepted my life with tics. 


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