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How to Deal With a Colleague With Tourettes

When thinking of Tourette Syndrome (TS), we usually think of someone who has an aggressive twitch and regular outbursts of cursing and obscene remarks. In actuality, this is quite rare, and the real symptoms consist of excessive eye-blinking, tics (simple and complex), throat clearing and sometimes yelling or speaking in different tones.

See Also: How to Handle Unpleasant Changes in the Workplace 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it remains unclear as to how many people in the United States are living with Tourette’s. However, what we do know is that 1 out of every 360 children ages six to 17 have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.

Depending on the severity of one’s TS, it can be quite difficult to function in a workplace. Since many equate it to a distraction disorder, it can make others in the office feel uncomfortable, particularly if they have been unaware of it or have never been exposed to it their entire lives.

If you’re someone who is working alongside a colleague with TS then here are 5 ways to deal with it:


1. Perform Research to Understand TS

A new employee has arrived at the office. You notice that he’s different and obviously has something wrong with him. You are informed that he suffers from TS. After introducing yourself, you should perform some research on TS and learn about common symptoms, treatment, causes and so on. The better informed you are then the better you can interact with your colleague. 

2. Be Accepting & Understanding of Your Colleague

Unfortunately, not everyone can be in 100 percent health. This means we all have to come across individuals that have a wide variety of syndromes and diseases. Therefore, you should be accepting and understanding of your colleague. They didn’t choose to be this way. If you accept and practice a little bit of empathy then their lives will be easier. 

3. Remain Patient With the Colleague

If you’re working on a project with this colleague, you’ll have to practice a good deal of patience. Sometimes, they may have quite a lot of tics, or they may have to leave work early for the day because of a doctor’s appointment. Whatever the case, remain patient at all times with the colleague. If you have to pick up the slack at times then so be it.

4. Do Not Stare at Your Colleague During Tics

For those that haven’t done their due diligence or haven’t even introduced themselves to this colleague, there may be quite a bit of people who will stare at the person. Don’t be one of these people; do not stare. Instead, go about your day and act as if they’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. Someone with Tourette’s just wants to be treated like everybody else and doesn’t want to be viewed as a sideshow. 

Tip: if people are staring then go up to them and ask them to stop. Perhaps you can explain some things regarding TS.

5. Ask Questions But Don't Regularly Talk About TS

At times, you may be completely ignorant of TS. Something you have witnessed may not have been explained on a website. If so, ask a question or two but don’t regularly talk about TS. This means that throughout your day, engage in conversation related to work, motion pictures, television, books, current events and so on. A person living with TS doesn’t want to dwell on it. 

See Also: 5 Key Health Issues in the Workplace 

It’s rather unfortunate that the most ignorant of people in an office space will likely tease the person or even go as far as bullying. In these cases, defend the colleague, who will then trust you completely. Not only have you helped someone in need but you have also gained a friend. If you have someone at the office who has TS, do this simple thing: treat them like you would treat anybody else.

Do you know anyone suffering from TS? How has it affected their work?

SOURCES
How Stuff Works
CDC