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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp
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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.
about the book
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Special Needs Homeschooling
Learning Disabilities


Homeschooling with Tourette's Syndrome
and/or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

by Julie Shepherd Knapp, copyright 2006


Tourette Syndrome
is a hereditary neurological disorder which causes
a child to repeat certain actions or sounds on a regular basis.  These
repeated actions or sounds, called "tics", often include such things as  
eye blinking, throat-clearing, sniffing, nodding, jerking, jumping, yelping,
or saying a word or phrase.  A child may repeat the same action or
sound or a combination of them, every once in a while, or very
frequently.  It is important to know that even though some childen with
Tourette's may be able to "put off" or suppress the tics for a short period
of time, they are not able to control them long-term.  They cannot "just
stop doing it".

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder.  An
obsession is a recurrent, persistent idea, thought, or image.  Obsessive
thoughts are often about a worrisome topic or event and cause the child
great anxiety, fill them with troublesome doubt, or even cause them to
panic.  Compulsions are repetitive behaviors, such as arranging things
in a particular order, straightening things, "re-checking" things,
excessive hand-washing, touching or smelling things, or having to “even
up” (such as tap one foot, then the other).

A child with OCD feels that he or she is "doing what is needed" or
preventing something bad from happening with their actions.  For
example, by re-checking that the door is locked (over and over) they can
finally feel "safe".  By going thru a certain "ritual" of behavior, they can
keep an unpleasant obsessive thought from coming back for a time.  
These rituals only provide temporary relief, and a person may end up
spending a large portion of their day completing them, or getting "stuck"
in rituals.  There is some overlap between symptoms of OCD and TS
(the complusions of OCD can look similar to the tics of TS) and some
children are diagnosed as having both TS and OCD.

Tourette's and OCD are not "learning disorders" but these
conditions can certainly affect a student's ability to learn
.  
Tics and rituals may interfere with a child's ability to pay attention and
hear instructions, tics may make tasks that involve motor control more
difficult and time-consuming, and both tics and rituals may disrupt the
continuity of lessons, requiring more time to cover scheduled materials.  

Fortunately, one of the benefits of  homeschooling is that children can
move at their own pace, and lessons can be spread out over as much
time as is needed:

Answers can be given orally, and parents can act as scribes to write
down children's answers or take dictation for papers.  

Parents can read aloud to their child or use books on tape, which can be
played back if a part is missed.  

Children with TS may be more willing to try new tasks and be more
comfortable speaking aloud when surrounded by understanding family
members.  

Homeschooled children are free to move around as they work -- rituals
and tics can be accommodated, instead of a child trying to suppress
them for hour-long class periods.  This may help to reduce a child's
stress level and avoid the exhaustion that avoidance/supression can
cause.  

Many families have found homeschooled children, in general, to be more
accepting of other children with differences, and you may actually find
that your child is more comfortable in homeschool playgroups that he or
she was at school.  Each group has it's own dynamics, of course, and
you may need to try a few groups to find the best match.  (see the
Homeschool Diner
Support Group Primer for more info on finding
support groups or starting your own)          


Online Resources for TS

Tourette Syndrome Association -- general info and resources

Growing Up with Tourette's -- a website for kids

Beyond the Tics: Other Symptoms of TS and Associated
Conditions this article, originally from Pediatric Nursing, summarizes
some additional issues common to those with TS and/or OCD, such as
peer and parent relationships, rages, and school problems. (there is a
free registration process to access articles).

Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and
Creativity: Do Tics Do More Than Just Tick You Off? by John
Machold -- explores creativity in those with TS and OCD, cites studies
showing that creative endeavors may satisfy the same areas of the brain
involved with TS and OCD behavior   

Tourette Syndrome -- Now What? Message Board -- online support
for parents, many topics

Homeschooling Our Tourette's Kid -- a mother's blog

HS-Plus -- a group for those homeschooling children with Tourette's,
OCD, ADD/ADHD, Bipolar, and many other disorders and differences

Homeschooling Extraordinary Kids -- if your child is very bright, as
well as having TS or OCD, you may find it helpful to join this group as well

Resources for OCD

Step on a Crack... a brief intro to OCD from the NIMH

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? from the NIMH

Obsessive Compulsive Foundation -- info and resources

HS-Plus -- a group for those homeschooling children with Tourette's,
OCD, ADD/ADHD, Bipolar, and many other disorders and differences

Homeschooling Extraordinary Kids -- if your child is very bright, as
well as having TS or OCD, you may find it helpful to join this group as well

Related Issues

More about Anxiety Disorders from the NIMH

Why People Hoard -- all about the hoarding tendency associated with
in OCD and other disorders

Perfectionism