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Life's A Twitch! Celebrating 15 years.
1998 - 2018
Life's A Twitch! Celebrating 15 years.


Psychologist with Tourette Syndrome speaks from experience about the disorder



Monday, June 6, 2005: Dr. Duncan McKinlay knows what it's like to keep a secret.

He was only seven years old when he discovered his and it was 12 years before anyone else realized it. Now, the London, Ontario-based clinical psychologist - who was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was 19 - wants to help children get their own personal monkeys off their backs.

"In my work as a clinician, more often than not the bad kids don't walk into my office. The bad teachers don't walk into my office. The bad parents don't walk into my office. It's the good, confused and overwhelmed people with a giant monkey on their backs that come to see me," McKinlay said prior to a weekend conference aimed at helping families of special needs children.

"The true enemy that people are missing is this disorder. One of the most important roles I can play is the one of the information conduit. I want to help people understand (Tourette Syndrome) and how to not mistake it for bad behaviour."

McKinlay was one of the many guest speakers on hand at the ouR-Net conference, sponsored by the provincial parental advisory committee for the Northwest Alberta Child and Family Services Authority Region 8. Presenters discussed such topics as education needs and gaps, positive behaviour and support, living with a disorder and how to build self-esteem in a child with a disability.

And perhaps most important, said McKinlay, was the chance to help rebuild families dealing with a disability.

"The importance of my role is to change the dynamic in the family and get everyone working in co-operation. That's the only way you can get further as a team," he said.

"One thing I do is start with my personal story and let them know about the monkey I've been carrying around on my back. There were some pretty rotten times between (my sister and I). The more I worked, the more I wondered about the impact this had on her. I wasn't the brother she wanted to have. I was lost and she was confused. The attention was on me and the damage was done. (A session) like this would have been helpful for me to live a happier life."

By drawing on his personal experiences and his own struggles with Tourette Syndrome, one of McKinlay's most popular sessions is a sibling in-service. There, he meets with siblings of children with differences to answer their questions, share ideas about how to make life easier and validate their own struggles within the family.

"What I can do is not make excuses for brothers and sisters or tell you that you have to put up with stuff. I want to see what we can do to figure out what these kids are dealing with so everyone understands it better. We can talk about it so they know I understand what they've gone through. Let's help make them less lost and less confused," he said.

"What I find is my past liability has become an asset. By discussing what they experience on a daily basis, they really get it."

McKinlay has been a keynote speaker for hospitals, universities and school boards across Canada and the United States since 1997. In addition to his work as a psychologist, he has done well over 300 presentations for organizations and and groups dealing with a variety of disorders.

This is the first time a conference of this type has been held in Grande Prairie and McKinlay said the overwhelming demand speaks for itself.

"With the interest this (conference) is getting, obviously there is a need. We want to help keep those kids from falling through the cracks."

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Last updated on March 25, 2022

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