$13.5K TAA grant funds specialized Tourette and tic disorder training for educators in the classroom

By Anna Shavers

According to the Tourette Association of America (TAA), up to 80% of parents felt their child’s tics negatively impacted their ability to learn in school even though 76% of parents reported that their child had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 accommodations in place at school.

Research shows teachers and educators with inadequate knowledge about Tourette and tic disorders can create classrooms that are not socially or emotionally supportive for children living with Tourette and tic disorders.

(left) Irene Malaty, M.D., FAAN, (right) Heather Simpson, OTD, MOR, OTR/L
Irene Malaty, M.D., FAAN (left) and Heather Simpson, OTD, MOR, OTR/L (right)

“With limited specific training in management of tics, educators can often misunderstand tics and view these uncontrollable movements and sounds as disruptions to class that are manifested in attention-seeking or as oppositional defiant expressions which can cause difficulties in school for children living with tics,” said Heather Simpson, OTD, MOT, OTR/L, an occupational therapist at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases and the program coordinator for the UF Health TAA Center of Excellence.

To address recent research showing an increase in the number of children diagnosed with tics, the TAA awarded Dr. Simpson and Irene Malaty, M.D. FAAN, director of the UF Health TAA Center of Excellence, a $13.5K grant to create an on-demand professional training course to confront how education in the classroom falls short in supporting children living with tic disorders.

The course, expected to launch in July 2023, will provide teachers and educators across the country with unlimited access to knowledge, tools and resources for students living with Tourette and tic disorders.

In collaboration with the Educational Technology program at the University of Florida School of Teaching and Learning, the course will include five to six modules about tic disorders and related conditions, up-to-date research on specific classroom topics, links to community resources and more for teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors and administrators.

“We hope creating an on-demand, professional training program for educators focused on Tourette syndrome and tic disorders and the co-occurring conditions will increase knowledge of educators across Alachua County, the surrounding area and beyond as well as increase the success of students living with Tourette syndrome and tic disorders,” said Simpson.