last time a situation where an employer sat me down to have a frank
discussion about my TS…. yet rather than being upset I snatched at the
opportunity. While I myself may be confident that, once I'm through
the threshold, I'll be able to demonstrate my value as a member of his/her
staff, the trick is to find someone who won't presume whether I should
even be offered the door.
now established myself well "on the other side", a lot of
good stuff has stemmed from the many fortunate relationships I've subsequently
developed. Over the next couple of installments I want to share with
you what I've learned so far:
as well "begin at the beginning", and talk about pointers
suggested to me for what to do in an initial job interview -
by broaching the topic yourself: inevitably there comes a point in that
first meeting where you are invited to ask any questions you may have.
Say something like, "I would like to discuss my Tourette Syndrome
and how it might influence my work here". If you are applying for
a position for which an application precedes the interview stage, you
may choose to not mention the fact that you have Tourette Syndrome until
you are physically sitting in front of the hiring body - both my training
and my experience tells me that people are more likely to succumb to
preconceived notions (and toss your application aside) when there is
no contrary evidence TO those preconceptions (when you are not in the
room to demonstrate your obvious competence and to defend yourself).
When applying for clinical internships, I did disclose in my applications
that I had Tourette Syndrome - given that my entire curriculum vitae
(academic resume) burgeoned with TS involvement, research, presentations,
and clinical work it seemed sensible. Of course, out of 12 carefully
crafted (and strong) applications only 3 sites even bothered to interview
me never mind rank me….
valuable tidbit imparted to me: think about what the job you are applying
for entails and what therefore would be the SPECIFIC areas of concern
your employer would have regarding the TS. Perhaps the mistake I made
in my clinical applications is that I was too general. I wrote "Concerning
my diagnosis with Tourette Syndrome, I recognize that you would be
remiss in your duties to uphold the caliber of your institution if you
did NOT question the impact my disorder might have on my successful
tenure as an intern…In this spirit I very much encourage you to
approach me with any concerns you may have". I then wrote a
bit about how the disinhibited energy that TS provides helps rather
than hinders me, but what I failed to do is get concrete. For example,
my plans were to work with youth - not just youth, but youth who have
been traumatized and/or have their own disinhibition problems to deal
with. HOW DO CHILDREN REACT TO ME? I never said. Months into my rotations
now, my advisors and colleagues see that I easily establish strong rapports
with kids: a Speech and Language Pathologist told me just yesterday
that this is a testament to how comfortable I am with my symptoms. Yet
by not explicitly speaking to this issue in my initial applications,
maybe I got put aside by more internship sites than I should have. Another
example is the ability to suppress, at least partially, in situations
where doing so is appropriate. PEOPLE DON'T KNOW WE CAN DO THAT!! My
co-workers are astonished that not only does it "go away"
when I'm deeply involved in something, but I can resist "scratching
the itch" for short periods of time when necessary. It never even
occurred to me to mention suppression, yet my current employer tells
me this information is vital, and urges me to inform future employers
Ok, so maybe we'll take THREE installments to cover all of this.....
next time, my friends!
B. Duncan McKinlay, Ph.D.