We have two wonderful daughters, both of whom have Tourette Syndrome (ages 13 and 9). After several years of homeschooling both, our younger daughter, Paige, decided that she wanted to go to the local public school.
Besides all the thoughts around the expected (and unexpected) changes that this would bring in the home and within the family, I was particularly concerned with how her new classmates and teachers would react to her TS.
I feared that my self-assured, headstrong, confident daughter would be transformed into a cautious, self-critical and depressed pre-teen if her experience proved to be negative and stressful.
Luckily, our older daughter, Tess, stepped in to help her little sister. She used her prior experience to organize and deliver an in-service presentation to Paige’s future classmates and teachers. To paraphrase her opening remarks:
I’ve given talks about TS in other schools, my synagogue and scout troops, but this is the first time I will be speaking on behalf of someone that is very important to me; Paige Kowalski, my sister and your future classmate.
After her presentation, she invited Paige up to answer questions. The response of the class was everything I would have hoped for – they were very attentive, had thoughtful questions and welcomed her with open arms.
I left the classroom that day feeling remarkably proud of the bravery my daughters displayed and was reminded of how terrific they both are. Importantly, because of Tess’s commitment to destigmatizing TS and other neurological disorders through advocacy and education, I left that class assured that Paige was getting the best possible send-off on this new journey in her life.
While it’s not easy for my wife and I to go through this transition, I know that the lesson those classmates received means there is at least one child that better understands what my daughter deals with every day, at least one child who will be empathetic and stand up to bullies with her, and one child with TS whose struggle will be easier because of it.
Read more about Tess and Paige’s presentation on the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome website.