Handling insensitive comments by others

Recently, I’ve encountered two incidents on some social media sites from acquaintances. My immediate reaction is anger, but then I take a deep breath, wait a while to cool down and then respond. Even then, I’m sure my responses could be nicer. I wonder if I’m doing more harm than good. Like the saying goes, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” I tend to be more vinegary.

The first comment came from an acquaintance who is an elementary school teacher. She posted a video of a guy playing a guitar. Rather than strumming, he tapped the guitar. Her comment was “Tourette’s or talent?”

I replied that that comment hurt me, as I have a son with TS and it isn’t something to be made light of. She wrote back saying that it wasn’t meant to be derogatory — that it was more of a compliment. Yeah right. I said, “So if you replaced Tourette’s with autism or epilepsy, do you think that would be taken as a compliment?” I told her that I hoped she would educate herself about TS, because chances are, she will have a student with TS at some point.

Another person made a joke about coprolalia. My response, “I hope your children don’t have TS. Believe me, it’s not funny.”

How do you respond?


  1. Thanks SarahG. I hope my response got through to her and that she will make the effort to learn about TS.

    I don’t go in book stores very often, but if I see that “Pets with Tourettes” book, I will definitely speak with the manager!

  2. I’ve found that subtlety does not work with people who make comments like this. I suggest they try substituting race or physical disability for TS in their jokes, and see if they still feel clever and witty. I fight back pretty hard. My son has been stigmatized and shut out of so many opportunities over the years because of other people’s ignorance and discomfort that I really have lost my patience.

    • I’ve also had no qualms about walking into bookstores prominently displaying the “Pets With Tourette’s” books and demanding that the staff rethink their decision-making process. Usually, asking them if they would feature “Paraplegic Ponies” or “Deaf Dogs” in their display case makes them stop and think.

  3. I had it happen about six months ago. A writer friend of mine – a published award winning person – wrote something kind of rude. I responded, as I always do, with an educational take. I don’t put them on the defense. I say, “Hey, just so you know, T.S. is this. * definition * I know you probably didn’t mean to be insulting, but given my kid has it, I wanted you to know. Thanks for listening!”

  4. Thank you E. My son was diagnosed at 6 and is almost 13 now. He is the only one in the family with TS, but there is a long history of depression, anxiety and OCD on both sides. You’re right about it being particularly hurtful when family members don’t believe you. I would try to talk to my Mom about it but she just never seemed to believe me. Once she witnessed some of his tics she became a little more understanding, but has never made any effort to learn more about it.

  5. Hello – Not sure how long you have been dealing with TS in your families lives but soon you will learn the anger will only hurt you more and cause more stress in your life, trust me! It is especially hurtful when comments are made by those whom you feel should know better or are close to you, one would think they would be understanding – doesn’t always work that way – TS is so strange and hard to explain and many times others do not see what you see. We still have family members who refuse to understand and feel we make “things” up. It boils down to this – you give everyone the benefit of the doubt and ask kindly to refrain from using TS as an example to mock or be funny as it is very hurtful. Remember to ask if they would like to understand TS and keep it brief unless they ask for more. If they continue to be ignorant about TS then you need to let it go and focus on what is important for your child, could be his teachers. I am living proof of fighting the cause for years and in the meantime loosing MANY friends, family and neighbors trying to explain! It has also taken its toll on my family and we realized we try our best and again, those who choose to remain ignorant will only learn when they either want to or have to. I hope this helps, stay strong my friend, stay strong!! :-) e

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