Meet Dr. Duncan McKinlay, the Psychologist with Tourette Syndrome

I must introduce you to a remarkable person who can be the answer to your prayers if you know, love  or work with a person who has Tourette syndrome. For our Author Interview Series, I was honored to interview a renowned fellow Canadian, Dr. Duncan McKinlay. He is the author of Nix Your Tics! Eliminate Unwanted Tic Symptoms  A How-To Guide for Young People. Duncan McKinlay is the psychologist with Tourette syndrome himself who has become the perfect mentor for all families coping with Tourette.

Dr. McKinlay was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome (TS) at the age of nineteen. However, like many other individuals who receive a late diagnosis, he knew something was not quite right by the age of a  seven. From the first line in his how-to book, Hey Got Tics? Me too. Welcome to the club., the reader with Tourette syndrome really feels like a welcomed club member. The club  Duncan McKinlay, Ph.D., C Psych., created is the Leaky Brakes Club. Leaky brakes is how he explains tics and the other symptoms that often go along with Tourette syndrome.

In his book, I love the way Dr. McKinlay (Dr. Dunc) “has a casual chat” with the child with TS, just as if they were sitting on the family couch. His message is upbeat and he delivers it with humor. The 144 page pocket book is very easy to read and recommended for ages 12 and older.

You can read the complete online interview here and read a review of his book,  Nic Your Tics here. The following are parts of our interview.

Dr. Duncan McKinlay,

the Psychologist with Tourette Syndrome

Lorna: I read you do “Nix Your Tics!” Appearances and/or Talks on your own and that you also do presentations through the Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI) in London, Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Children & Youth Services. Do you enjoy doing these? What feedback do you receive that makes doing these events all worthwhile?

<<  Dr. McKinlay  >> I do enjoy them very much, yes – there’s nothing like watching a light-bulb go off in some audience members eye and knowing that some child or student’s life just got better.

The vast majority of presenting I do are in schools (to students and also to educators); after more than 700 presentations to tens of thousands of people, what becomes so clear to me is how the vast majority of harm those of us with TS and associated disorders are subjected to is caused by ignorance. Sure there can be malice too, but even much of this malice is created by the ignorance and misinformation my presentations aim to eliminate.

I don’t tend to do, ‘strategy’ presentations, as an unlimited supply of the best strategies in the world aren’t going to make a lick of difference if a person is unmotivated to use them. Instead, then, I focus on those light-bulbs – helping people to, ‘get it’. Once they do, half the time they don’t need me to tell them anything more because from this new perspective it is suddenly more than apparent what to do and what not to do. People aren’t stupid.  They are just oftentimes tragically under-informed.

One interesting (and perhaps surprising) thing I can tell your readers are the passionate reactions I routinely get from teachers. Educators who approach me afterwards are either in tears, quite angry, or eagerly anticipating the next time a particular student will be in their classroom.  Each of these reactions is explained to me in the exact same way: “why didn’t someone tell me all this sooner?!

Lorna: Do you think if the tween Duncan with Tourette syndrome was growing up now it would be easier than when you were growing up? What still has to change to help youth with Tourette have an easier time at school and in the community?

<<  Dr. McKinlay  >> Perhaps, but then again ‘easy’ is highly overrated.  The only way to create a pearl is for an oyster to endure a great deal of irritation, and many qualities of myself were forged through many painful struggles over a great many years. I’m not sure I’d recognize myself, or be in the successful position I’ve been in, were it not for my TS.  We can kill with kindness, and I think our present society of ‘helicopter’ parents and overprotection is something for which we need to be quite vigilant.

If we changed the question to how to continue making things more FAIR for youth with TS, I think in many ways we are on the right track but need to realize some of these directions a bit more fully.  For one thing, we need a new formal identification for TS and associated disorders within the school system – one I would call, “Neurodevelopmental” that would include accommodations which better capture the true issue (that of dysregulation) rather than the red herring (‘behaviour’). Also, while we in theory protect individuals with disorders from discrimination, how that discrimination takes shape with TS and associated disorders must be better recognized and protected against.  For instance, we live in a culture which hasn’t yet recognized that taking advantage of a person’s ‘leaky brakes’ – capitalizing on the fact that everyone in the room thought it but YOU said it – is discrimination.

Nix Your Tics! Eliminate Unwanted Tic Symptoms  A How-To Guide for Young People. Duncan McKinlayLorna: The “view site stats” on your site registers over a million visitors! Congratulations on your great website design with its easy-to-use format and numerous pages of content/information. This site is also where your book, Nix Your Tics! can be bought.  Where else can we buy your book?

<<  Dr. McKinlay  >> In addition to ordering the book online via a link on my website, visitors can also download a printable form from my website for ordering the book by mail, fax, or over the telephone. Caversham Booksellers and Parentbooks (both based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) also carry “Nix”, for anyone local who may wish to drop in or who might be attending a workshop where one of these bookstores has set up a display.

Finally, the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada at present has a box I’ve left with them, should they wish to have any books on-hand to sell at any of their functions.

Buy the Book:  Nix Your Tics!

Follow Dr. McKinlay:



See also: Online interview with Dr. McKinlay here and read a review of his book,  Nic Your Tics! here.

Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada  http://video.tourette.ca/ Check out  a set of web-videos that have been designed to tell the Tourette syndrome story. This array of personal stories spans the TS spectrum. The special people you meet have courageously told their stories in order that others will not feel alone.


Trek for Tourette is a 5km walk/run held annually on the last Sunday of March* in communities across Canada in support of the Tourette Syndrome cause.

Brynn’s Bizarre Behavior: A Look at 8 Year Old Brynn’s Life with Tourette Syndrome by Danica SuretteBrynn’s Bizarre Behavior: A Look at 8 Year Old Brynn’s Life with Tourette Syndrome by Danica Surette  “Brynn’s Bizarre Behavior” is a true account of 8 year old Brynn’s life, good and bad, living with Tourette syndrome (TS). This is a wonderful book for school aged children from 8 to 12 years old to learn acceptance and understanding of their peers who may be displaying behaviors not commonly understood by most children.
Buy the book Amazon.com  Barnes & Noble 
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