Take it from someone who has been there: Seeing someone tic can often look/be funny, silly, unnerving, weird, etc. Sometimes, I’m not even sure what to make of myself — especially if I’m dealing with new tics or a new set of tics.
Every time I go out in public, I play this mental game of battleship. How bad are my tics today? How much am I able to tic in front of people. Do I let people see my old tics, let alone new ones? What happens if I have a vocal tic? All this and OCD, too??? It can be exhausting.
People don’t always know how to approach someone with Tourettes or what to do if they see a person ticcing, and that’s understandable. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, because often I — and others like me — am often more frustrated or confused then anyone looking in from the outside. So, what does one do when confronted with someone who has TS?
- When talking to someone with TS, don’t be afraid to look at them when they’re ticcing. You’re having a conversation, so it’s perfectly acceptable to make eye contact.
- Don’t be afraid to ask if you are genuinely curious. Say something like, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice, do you have Tourettes?”
- Do NOT ask ask them to stop ticcing. We literally cannot help it.
- Remember that not everyone with TS is going to start spouting profanities. Only 10% do and even they aren’t guaranteed.
- Someone with TS needs to be included in groups, not excluded or isolated because they’re different. Make it clear that they’re welcome.
- People with TS are naturally tense for a number of reason. Do what you can to make them feel at ease.
- Don’t single someone out who has TS by pitying them or continuously asking them if they’re OK.
- Everyone has problems or something they need help with. If someone with TS is asking for help or special consideration, assume it’s because they really need it, not because they just want attention.
- If you’re friends with someone with TS, learn to be accustomed to their tics, rather than constantly being startled or disconcerted. Body language alone speaks volumes. If we constantly have to worry about how our tics are going to affect whomever we are with, it puts us in a defensive position that prohibits us from relaxing and being ourselves.
- Learn to accept others as they are with all their unique differences and challenges. Being able to coexist with others in a peaceful and meaningful way is invaluable.