Woman With Tourette's Syndrome Shows You How to Treat People With Disabilities
“My tics are surreal and funny.”
“When people meet me for the first time, lots of them don’t know how to react,” says Jess Thom, a British youth worker. When Thom speaks her sentences are peppered with nonsensical exclamations such as “biscuit!” or “cat!,” which she often punctuates by slamming her fist into her chest. Thom’s uncontrolled outbursts are caused by Tourette’s syndrome (TS). Although she has TS, Thom doesn’t want you to nervously withhold your laughter because “my tics are surreal and funny,” she says.
If everyone improved how they communicate with disabled people it would be helpful for Thom, but there’s a bigger issue at hand. Last year, acts of violence against disabled people in the United Kingdom increased by an unfathomable 41 percent. In the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report , “The age-adjusted rate of nonfatal violent victimization—rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault—was 36 per 1,000 for people with disabilities in 2013, twice the rate for people without disabilities.”
Thom believes that adults’ fear of “crossing the line and causing offense” is what prevents most people from becoming comfortable around those with disabilities. In turn, this lack of understanding fosters a culture that is hostile to the disabled. To bridge this chasm, Thom believes people should ask those who are different about their disabilities to promote greater understanding. “I used to think that attitude change was a long, drawn-out process,” Thom says. “But I’ve learned that it can happen very quickly, and it often starts with a single conversation.”