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TICCING IN PUBLIC
8 Smart Ways to Deal with It

by Mitzi Waltz


1. Medical ID Card/Bracelet
When you were a kid, your mother might have carried one of those medical identification cards that the Tourette Syndrome Association sells.  Remember those?  Some stranger would make a rude remark, or you’d be having a visible/audible tic in the grocery store, and mom would  flash the card.  It might have helped you both in some situations. 

If your tics are quite severe, one of these cards in your wallet is probably still a good idea, just in case someone seriously misinterprets your movements or  sounds. It’s not for flashing at random strangers, though (and you might prefer a Medic-Alert style bracelet or pendant for more difficult situations). 

For your public outings, we suggest seven more methods for coping with tics that won’t stay in the closet when you’re out and about:


2. Don’t isolate yourself

It’s tempting, especially if you get nasty remarks and curious looks, but you’ve got as much right to enjoy public spaces and places as anyone else.  In totally public venues like the local library, the swimming pool, the shopping mall, or the sidewalk,  don’t worry about doing anything special.  These places belong to everyone, and that includes you. Some “public” places are a bit different, because other people come to them with certain expectations: upscale restaurants, the opera, that sort of thing. For these rare exceptions, see below.


3. Bring something attention-absorbing
When your mind is totally focussed, your tics tend to recede.  Waiting around in a public place might cause tics to come to the forefront  Always carry a book of really hard crosswords, number puzzles, a hand-held computer game, needlework,  sketchbook, an iPod with  the ultimate party mix, or something similarly engrossing, and let yourself really get absorbed by it.  Not only are you less likely to tic, but you won’t even sense it if you do, and you won’t observe any stares from other patrons either.


4. Bring a friend
If you’re enjoying their company and they’re enjoying yours, it will put strangers around you at ease. They may notice your tics, but they’ll also notice that you’re obviously a normal guy or gal with friends who like you. It’s an automatic icebreaker.


5. Be prepared
Think about your current tics, and how you might minimize both your own discomfort and others’ potential reaction.  For a spitting tic, bring a handkerchief so you can be discreet about it.  If you’re sniffing loudly, try a bit of Vick’s VapoRub or similar strong-smelling ointment under your nose -- it will change the sensation, quite possibly short circuiting the tic for a while. If you have complex tics that slow you up, allow extra time to get into and out of events. If you find that you’re better relaxed after an hour at the gym or yoga class, schedule your life accordingly. And so on…


6. Prepare others
For events where the noise level might not be high enough to camouflage vocal tics, contact the venue in advance to see if they can suggest a solution. Perhaps a private box can be arranged (and if it’s a disability accommodation, there really shouldn’t be any extra cost to you…).  Many movie theatres now have “VIP Seating” for people who like to talk and canoodle during movies, and “Cry Rooms” for people who want to bring babies. These facilities can be helpful for you too.
 

7. Frame your response
If someone goes out of his way to be rude, use your judgement, but don’t be shy about defending your rights. You can reply directly with an explanation, complain to the management of the venue, or take your business elsewhere. The only thing you shouldn’t do is take it personally.  You can’t control your tics, but you can raise the level of the dialog, and, just maybe, add to someone’s knowledge.
 

8. Seek opportunities
Look for places where you can really let go:  if you’re a (young?) rocker, head for loud clubs, rock concerts, that sort of thing.  Other activities to explore include running, skiing, swing dancing, swimming, bicycling---all provide wonderful energy outlets.  (For quieter fun times, there are always TSA Conferences and events).



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