education · Family

Head-Shaking, Arm-Flapping, Test-Taking ThingFour

He squints his eyes and shakes his head rapidly back and forth. He lifts his knees to touch the top of his thighs to the underside of his desk. He lifts his toes up and down inside his shoes. Discreetly, he tries to turn some arm-flapping into a stretch. And every time he reads a cool word, his brain repeats it, rolls it around and around in his mind, silently focusing on every syllable.

The head-shaking, knee-lifting, arm-flapping tics are repeated over and over again as he tries to listen to his teacher, remembers not to repeat any cool words out loud -only inside his head- and makes sure his arms don’t actually hit any kids sitting near him.

ThingFour has Tourette Syndrome and some mild OCD. And while it’s often an annoyance, it usually isn’t horribly disruptive to life. There are worse things, we remind ourselves.

But during state standardized testing days —– Well, Tourette Syndrome and standardized testing aren’t the most compatible.

The compulsion to repeatedly check and recheck and recheck every answer has tripped him up on tests before.

Reading test questions, looking at maps, lining up math problems while squinting up his eyes and shaking his head from side to side can be especially challenging.

Holding in tongue clicks and remembering not to whisper-repeat any fun-sounding words, like Ponce de Leon and Antarctica, requires mental energy that could be put toward answering test questions.

So today and on the other test days, I’m praying for ThingFour and for ThingTwo, his ticcing sister. I’m praying for focused minds and calm bodies. I’m praying for understanding teachers and neighboring classmates who are not easily distracted by knee-lifting and head-shaking.

And I’m bracing myself for some serious opera-singing tics when ThingFour gets home from school. After holding in tics and focusing on test-taking today, Tourette Syndrome will probably really let loose when his school day is over. Anyone have any song requests?

2 thoughts on “Head-Shaking, Arm-Flapping, Test-Taking ThingFour

  1. “I’m On Top of the World” by the Carpenters, maybe? “We Will Rock You”? “Movin’ On Up” from The Jeffersons?


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