We have had a hell of a time lately with tics. There is not a moment in the day that Perrin doesn’t tic. This is not an exaggeration at all; he literally tics for 13 hours nonstop every day. He’s been doing the spitting on his shoulder and rubbing his face for the last couple of months with very little indication of it slowing down any time soon. His face is constantly red and raw, and it has become part of his morning and evening ritual to slather his face with ointment. He has to change his shirt several times a day, and I wash his coat every other day due to the smell. He now blinks all the time as well, so if reading was a challenge before with the swallowing tic, just imagine how difficult it is to follow along in a book with chronic blinking. He is still flicking his fingers as well, so holding a pencil or typing is also pretty much out of the question.
I waffle between being obsessively worried that he will never learn to read and just trying to go with the flow with the realization that there is really very little we can do at the moment. We have pretty much exhausted our medication options with regard to his ADHD, and on the days that I decide not to put his patch on in the hopes that the tics will decrease even a little bit, his focus and attitude are so challenging that no information is retained and the need for constant redirection and assistance frustrates us both. He is now taking a .1 mg tablet of clonidine in the evenings, half that in the morning, and another half at lunchtime. It makes him drowsy and somewhat persnickety, but it helps lessen the tics a little bit until about 2:00 pm. Then all bets are off, and it’s Tic Central.
That’s not to say that there’s no learning going on or that life is horrible right now. On the contrary, Perrin and I have been getting along quite well, and we’ve both fallen into a very content rhythm during our days together. If you take out the reading frustrations, everything is peachy in the school department. And I have found a method of positive reinforcement (cough * bribing * cough) that works well enough to keep him from arguing with me during our desk work. I insist upon 5 formal lessons per day, and for each task he completes with a good attitude, he gets a chocolate chip. It works. Don’t judge.
At this point, most of our school is what most would consider “unschooling.” He really loves documentaries, so we’ve been watching a lot of those. I try to incorporate as much of his interests into my teaching, so that I can hold his attention for a little while. If he’s digging dinosaurs for the next month, that’s what we’re going to talk about. This week we’ve been discussing The Big Bang and evolution. I read to him a lot, and we’ve delved into the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, which I plan to teach chronologically. We go on a lot of field trips, and we’re just experiencing life right now. We’re out in the world, learning as we go. We joined a new homeschooling group that meets frequently, so we’re back in the community meeting new people and staying active.
What I’ve learned over the last year is that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to education. Those arbitrary timelines and testing guidelines have been thrown out the window. It is not important to be able to write 17 legible words per minute to be a happy, functional human being. “Grade level” is not something I even really think about much anymore, especially considering what our district thinks 9 year olds must learn in order to perform adequately. I no longer give even the tiniest of rat’s asses what the powers that be think my child should know, because I have realized that it’s mostly bullshit and taught with the sole purpose of teaching kids how to take timed tests. Timed tests and Tourette’s do not mix, so I find them pointless.
Learning is part of life, and it doesn’t have to follow any particular guideline. On days when I am around moms whose kids are reading chapter books and doing algebra, I get a slight twinge of worry that Perrin isn’t there yet, but then I remind myself that there will be a day where everything will fall into place for him. One day his tics will subside, and his body can rest. One day he will pick up a book and be able to read it. One day he will be an adult living and working out there in the real world. And my only hope is that he come to this place knowing he was loved and accepted just as he is.