Braydon Miller gets the wiggles. When he was a little fella, doctors thought it was restlessness or ‘just being a boy’ but it turned out the wiggles became tics, uncontrollable tics, and finally, a year ago, Braydon was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.
Stacie Miller, Braydon’s mom, is an Educational Assistant at a school other than his, but she and Braydon went to speak to his whole class. Together they explained that Tourette Syndrome is an overactivity of messaging in the brain. A neurological disorder, as mysterious to diagnose as it is to recognize, this ‘syndrome’ is totally unlike what the movie media would have us believe.
That’s why Stacie Miller felt it was important that Braydon’s classmates understand what causes his repetitive movements. And, those movements change. One week it might be toe tapping or knee knocking and another week it might be something else.
But, here’s the good part. Braydon’s classmates do understand. “Is that just one of your tics?” they’ll ask. And then they shrug it off. When Braydon’s uncontrolled movements become too great for him to hold off, he makes a sign to his teacher and leaves the room ‘to get his tics out.’
The Millers have chosen to use coping strategies rather than medication for Braydon’s challenges and with teacher and classmates understanding and supportive, it makes life a whole lot better than it could be.
“Braydon’s teacher, Ms Whetham, is the most incredible support for him and the whole classroom,” says Stacie who, as an EA, supports children with disabilities in elementary school classrooms in another Barrie school. She’s grateful for Braydon’s teacher and for the way his Maple Grove classmates have absorbed knowledge of Tourette’s and gone on outside to play ball.
With brain messaging that’s in high gear, motor and vocal tics, eye blinking, fist pumping, activities with fast, uncontrollable movements … these are the symptoms of Braydon’s daily life. Without support, Tourette’s can turn into greater problems but with acceptance it becomes something to be managed, like allergies, ADHD or OCD (Hyperactivity or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) or Autism. It just IS.
Stacie says she appreciated so much the letter sent home to parents in Braydon’s classroom, asking for understanding and cooperation. “If Braydon suppresses his tics, they come out like a machine gun later, not good for anybody.”
She points out that people today usually understand autism and adhd, but Tourette is a more rare occurrence. It’s hard to sit next to a kid who can’t sit still but acceptance goes a long way, as well as talking about feelings and attitudes. “We never let it be an excuse,” she says.
The Miller family (mom, dad, younger sibling) all belong to Tourette Syndrome Ontario and are active in the Barrie Chapter. That’s why they’ll be dressed head to toe in green and joining at least 95 other people on June 2 for a Walk and Pizza and Fun Day in Sunnidale Park.
“Not only do we raise money for education and materials, it’s also terrific for kids with Tourette to get together. You’ll hear them discuss their tics and where they are and then run off to play. It’s the ultimate acceptance,” says Stacie.
“How a kid does in school depends largely on how his teacher handles the classroom; Braydon is very, very lucky.” Braydon also just achieved his green belt in karate and cheers in the stands at his brother’s hockey games. He loves video games and very quickly completed reading all the Hunger Games series. He sings in the school choir and tried out for volleyball and spelling bee competition.
What a great example of how things can be when a young man, his parents and his school choose to make a difference, rather than making him different.
For more info: www.tourettesyndromeontario.ca, 1-888-274-2226.
Thanks, Stacie. You’ve taken the lead on an inclusive approach. Thanks, Braydon for being a leader. And Ms Whetham? Wow!