Tourette’s Syndrome and Tic Disorders: What Law Enforcement Needs to Know

Presented by Ray Nardella (he/him)

2021 Disability Summit
April 12, 2021 – 1:30 PM-2:00 PM

Twitter: @rayjnardella
Instagram: @ticbytic


Tourette’s Syndrome (TS), tic disorders, and associated disabilities, especially neurological-based ones, can oftentimes present significant challenges when in public places. Notably, interactions with police officers, security personnel, and other members of the law enforcement community can prove especially difficult- even dangerous- as such disabilities are not widely understood by those in the security and enforcement communities. The subtle or extreme movement of parts of the body (motor tics), or the mild or severe vocalization of noises, words, or phrases (vocal tics, or coprolalia), can easily lead a member of law enforcement to believe that there is another issue at play, such as drugs or intoxication, rather than a disability. A paucity of resources in the TS education realm, coupled with the political and administrative barriers of police and security training often hinder activists from being successful in their efforts to expose more law enforcement to TS and related conditions. The presenter will share his personal experience and research with TS and police to illustrate the dire need for increased training, understanding, and outreach for TS, specifically, and neurodiverse communities, generally. The presenter will also use brief storytelling to demonstrate the misconceptions, stereotypes, and stigmas associated with TS and associated disabilities.


Ray Nardella works in the Department of Resident Life at UMD, where he helps to oversee the student conduct program in the residence halls. Prior to UMD, Ray has held positions in high school and college teaching, clinical counseling, policy development, and has served as an elected city council member in Connecticut. Ray is passionate about sharing his experience with Tourette’s, panic, OCD, and anxiety, and educating the community on such issues. Ray has bachelor degrees in political science and education, master degrees in education and mental health counseling, and law degrees from the University of Maryland Carey Law School in Baltimore. Ray is interested in the intersection of disability and homeland security/crisis management policy, and hopes to influence change in this very important realm of the law. He has also engaged in projects in the areas of health, environmental, and military law. As a neurodiverse person, Ray wants to understand how different legal systems and structures affect the everyday lives of people with disabilities. Ray works to ensure that lawmakers ensure accessibility and equity for our community’s most vulnerable populations in emergency, crisis, and national security planning.