This Valentine’s Day is a great time to teach children living with Tourette syndrome some self-love, but focusing on the positive strengths that are associated with the condition.
Children living with Tourette syndrome (TS) or a Tic Disorder (TD) often face many challenges, often in multiple domains including at school, at home and socially. As in any diagnosis that would bring a unique set of challenges, a child with TS also demonstrates a unique set of strengths. In fact, you likely have already recognized that your child is exceptionally gifted in several ways.
To support this, in recent years, researchers are beginning to better identify and understand the scope of strengths that a child with TS might possess. Actually, the very traits that cause difficulties with TS often times are the very things that contribute to these strengths.
Excitingly, in 2018, researchers1 found that TS patients followed long-term have good psychosocial functioning, success with the attainment of significant social milestones, and an overall high subjective quality of life.
With success outcomes like this, researchers have looked into specific character strengths and cognitive skills that support people with TS. Below listed are some of the recent research discussing the unique advantages of TS.
- Enhanced Cognitive Control2
- Researchers studied the mechanism that helps children suppress tics, and noted that this constant, chronic struggle leads to enhance the ability of the brain to allow information processing and to adapt behavior based on goals (at least for some tasks).
- Verbal Strengths3
- Small study showing that children with TS may have a strength in assembling together sounds and processing grammar in a general form.
Although these new research studies show unique attributes to children living with TS, many traits have not been researched to date. The Child & Parent Resource Institute’s Brake Shop Virtual Clinic (https://www.cpri.ca/families/programs-services/brake-shop/brake-shop-virtual-clinic/) has gathered a list of “30 positives of leaky brakes” 4 which provides a look at extraordinary skills in TS. Some of those positive traits include:
- Perceptually acute
- Tendency for creativity
- Successful and quick to complete tasks they enjoy
- Good sense of humor
- Often empathetic
- Many more…
Sarah Henya, a musician with TS, was quoted in a recent article speaking on her relationship with TS. She stated that “[Tourette’s] is kind of precious to me. I feel like my perspective on the world and who I am and how I treat other people is different than it would have been if I didn’t have it.”
With the clear strengths of children living with TS, it is vital to make sure that those around children with TS bring attention to these unique abilities. With the mindset of “what you focus on will grow”5, it is important to promote and support these strengths and remember that their disability does not define these children. Focusing on abilities can foster healthy development and strong self-confidence.
With the increase in social media, several highly successful celebrities and athletes living with TS have found their unique strengths and used them to support their life and career. Many have spoken on the benefits of living with this diagnosis and can serve as role models for promoting the positives. Such examples include:
- Tim Howard, American Soccer Player, GoalKeeper
- Anthony Ervin, Olympic Gold Medalist
- Samuel Comroe, Comedian, America’s Got Talent Finalist
- Billie Eilish, Breakout musician
- Stuart Ellis-Myers, “Twitchy,” Motivational Speaker
For more information, visit the Tourette Association to find more resources on the strength of those living with TS. Specifically, check out the Tourette Association YouTube Page for videos from youth ambassadors and families talking about the many strengths of TS or further reading from the book An Unlikely Strength by Larry Barber. To watch or order a copy of the HBO short “I Have Tourette’s But Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me,” visit the FREE ordering link. Also, check out this article on the benefits of living with ADHD for benefits of one of the many co-occurring conditions with TS.
- Lowe, TL, Capriotti, MR, McBurnett, K. (2018) Long-term follow-up of patients with Tourette’s Syndrome. Mov Disord Clin Pract, 6(1): 40-45. . doi: 10.1002/mdc3.12696
- Vicario, C., Martino, D., Spata, F., Defazio, G., Giacchè, R., Martino, V., Rappo, G., Pepi, A., Silvestri, P., & Cardona, F. (2010). Time processing in children with Tourette’s syndrome. Brain and Cognition, 73 (1), 28-34 DOI: 1016/j.bandc.2010.01.008
- Dye, CD, Walenski, M, Mostofsky, SH, Ullman, MT. (2016) A Verbal Strength in Children with Tourette Syndrome? Evidence from a Non-word Repetition Task. Brain Lang, 160: 61-70. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2016.07.005.
- (n.d.). 30 positives of leaky brakes. Retrieved from https://www.cpri.ca/files/7714/5021/0371/30_Positives.pdf
- Corso, S.H. (2013 May 20). Whatever you focus on expands. Retreived from
Martinelli, M. (2017 June 6). Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin says Tourette Syndrome gave him an advantage in the pool. Retrieved from https://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/06/olympic-gold-medal-swimmer-anthony-ervin-tourette-syndrome-advantage-ambassador
theAwkwardYeti.com (n.d.). Self-love. Retrieved from http://theawkwardyeti.com/comic/love/
Writes, B. (2014 July 25). Why Tim Howard Makes Such a Difference for Toruettes. Retrieved from http://brittanyfichterwrites.com/why-tim-howard-makes-such-a-difference-for-tourettes/
Tew, R. (Author). (2015 June 5). Focus on your strengths instead. Retrieved from https://livelifehappy.com/life-quotes/focus-on-your-strengths-instead-of-your-weaknesses/