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TS and A-Levels

Posted Wed 6th Mar 2024 at 12:00
by Scarlet Jones


TS Champion, Scarlet, talks about navigating further education with Tourette Syndrome.

Hello! I'm Scarlet, a 17-year-old from Cambridgeshire. I was diagnosed with TS in 2019, however I’ve probably had tics my whole life! I’m currently working with TA as one of their 2024 TS Champions, as well as working towards my A-Levels.

I've found my experience doing A-Levels so different to doing my GCSEs. Firstly because the atmosphere of each qualification is different and secondly because I’m now so much more comfortable in my TS.

At A-level, class sizes are a lot smaller. I stayed on at my secondary school into sixth form, and take 3 A-Levels; Physics, Psychology and Sociology; and I have 4 teachers in comparison to the 10 GCSEs and 15 teachers. This has really helped me, as I know the school and the teachers well and they know me too. I had one of my physics teachers at GCSE as well as now at A-Level, and he's amazing with my TS and with helping find alternate ways of working. My tics called him Deborah, and that stuck as what we call him in that class now. 

The students at A-Level are, in general, a lot more chilled about my Tourette’s. Most of them have known me since my tics got bad, so it’s pretty normal for them and no one really bats an eye. Obviously, there are still a few students who are negative about it, but it’s pretty easy for me to ignore those who choose to be ignorant now.

There’s a lot of content at A-Level, and sometimes it can be hard to focus because of my tics. I've found that my tics can get bad when I’m under stimulated or overwhelmed, so I’ve worked out some ways that can really help me in class. Firstly, having the ability to have music going in one ear is really helpful (as a lot of people with TS find). It gives me a chance to have a dual focus and distraction, so I can do work and not struggle so much with trying not to tic.

Sometimes, writing my notes on whiteboards can be really helpful! I can take a picture of notes and it’s easy to transfer them into a workbook when I know that I’m able to. Another way that I can keep my focus is through scribbling or drawing on a separate piece of paper. I can easily redirect tic energy like that, so it’s really helpful as to keep my brain on track.

Now that it’s coming up to exam season, it’s really important to talk about access arrangements, as well as how to try and stay in a middle ground where I’m able to actually take the exams. Currently, I have my own room for exams, and I receive rest breaks. Having my own room is super important, as it ensures that I’m able to tic freely when needed, while also ensuring that other people can focus. I take all in-class assessments in a separate room and overall I’ve found it super helpful in being able to achieve what I know I can. Rest breaks are amazing in my exams. They give me a few minutes to gather my thoughts, as well as being able to have a much-needed break if my tics get too bad. 

To anyone who's struggling getting through mainstream education, my heart genuinely goes out to you. Secondary/High school are some of the worst years of anyone's life - let alone for us who have the added struggles of managing this extra part of ourselves. I promise, it gets better and there are always accommodations or alternatives to still achieving what you are so capable of.

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