Tourette’s season is here.
The hottest, heaviest weeks of the year amplify tics to unprecedented levels. Clouds of stupids, shut ups, and other unmentionables thicken the air.
Such is the pressure to expel offending words, my son must do more than speak them: he must type them, scrawl them, and even print them out on our label-maker.
We are cool with this.
Tics are neurological. Time-outs, scolding, and other intuitive interventions not only don’t work, they actually exacerbate tics. To decriminalize forbidden words is to diminish their frequency.
So, Tyoma can sing a thousand foul verses and print innumerable rude remarks. We blithely ignore him.
Some tics are easier to disregard than others. For example, I cannot bear touching tics. On long rainy afternoons I find myself entertaining a child compelled to touch me a hundred times an hour. Last year, he hinked my boozle, this year he’s punching me.
I don’t mean painful, aggressive punches, I mean soft little fist taps, 10,000 times a day. We call them “little punchies.”
As accepting as I am to Tyoma’s neurology, I struggle with this particular tic. Unexpected touch sets off a four alarm fire in my head. I jerk, jolt, and avert my own impulses to misbehave. This involuntary dramatic, negative response ensured a plethora of future little punchies. We were stuck in a loop.
Self-pity was my first choice. Summer is inherently miserable for me, so resigning myself to punchies with a mournful sigh seemed the way to go. Within a few days, little punchie nightmares took over my sleeping world. Without a reprieve from insistent little fist taps, I woke frazzled and depressed to the core.
I needed to take action. I needed to find a way to de-criminalize punchies since ignoring them was not working.
The solution was so obvious; I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.
One day as I picked Tyoma up from swimming, our respite worker Danielle asked, “Have you ever considered getting him a punching bag?”
No, actually, I hadn’t. The elegance of this solution made me want to shout “D’oh!” to the heavens.
The next day, we picked up a mixed martial arts bop bag. The company who manufactures the bag could never appreciate the wonderful favor they did for us by emblazoning it with numbered strike zones. More attractive than my backside or torso, the target-styled numbers invited infinite little punchies (and some big punchies, too!).
Our new bop bag accomplished two delightful things. First, it gave me control over the little punchies, so I did not spend my afternoons engulfed in adrenal hyper-vigilance. Second, it gave Tyoma an outlet for his prodigious energy. Any suggested number sequence redirected volleys of dopamine-fueled punchies to “Bopping Billy.” Hooray!
As I reflected on the success of Danielle’s suggestion, I recognized the existential issue of little punchies. Pointing my son to a punching bag is no different from me directing myself to a canvas or notebook. Our family experience of Asperger’s and Tourette’s includes such a superfluity of mental and physical energy that we must continually channel the excess or drown in the overflow. To master ourselves, we must uncover new outlets, so energies blossom outward in useful, healthy ways.