Teen Tommy Licato gets June 4 proclaimed as Tourette Syndrome Awareness Day in South Plainfield

PHOTO BY VICTORIA CARUSO/TAP into South Plainfield — South Plainfield High School student Tommy Licato accepted a proclamation declaring June 4, 2015 as Tourette Syndrome Awareness Day from Mayor Matt Anesh.

The mayor of South Plainfield, N.J., Matt Anesh, has announced that Thursday, June 4 is Tourette Syndrome Awareness Day in the borough and presented a proclamation to South Plainfield High School student Tommy Licato.

An inherited neurological disorder, Tourette Syndrome (TS) affects 1 in 100 children and there are more than 20,000 school-aged children in New Jersey dealing with TS. Characterized by “tics,” TS can strike people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds and although medication came help there is no standard treatment or known cure for this disorder.

“It is important to increase awareness, understanding and support for individuals and families affected by TS as well as the individuals and organizations that are committed to promoting education and awareness about TS to the general public, healthcare community and educational institutions,” said the mayor. “…Tourette Syndrome Awareness Day is a special day to promote understanding, compassion and acceptance for all our fellow citizens who deserve and need our support to break the stigma related to Tourette Syndrome.”

Read the full story here at TAP into South Plainfield.

New Jersey students get lessons about Tourette from NJCTS Youth Advocates

NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome’s (NJCTS) Youth Advocates inspired, educated and spread awareness about Tourette Syndrome to a total of 1800 Cresskill, N.J., students from May 11 through May 15, as part of a weeklong TS awareness campaign in the district.

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. It is estimated that 1 in 100 children show signs of the disorder—as many as 20,000 school aged kids in New Jersey alone. TS is frequently accompanied by ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and learning disabilities. Kids with TS are at increased risk for bullying and report feelings of isolation due to their condition. NJCTS Youth Advocates share their experiences with TS and spread messages of encouragement, acceptance, and self-advocacy.

Drew Friedrich spoke about TS to over 600 high school and 400 middle school students on May 11. Drew is 22 years old, a recent graduate of County College of Morris, has been a Youth Advocate since 2012, and was a coach at the first annual Tim Howard Leadership Academy last August.

“Drew did an amazing job connecting with the students and was comfortable in his skin, TS and all,” NJCTS Education Outreach Coordinator Gina Jones said. “He showed students that anything is possible and being different can be empowering. The students asked wonderful questions and started great discussion.” Continue reading

The final push

I have approximately a month of university left. A very, very scary prospect.

Before I forget – last semester I wrote a dissertation about the impact Tourette syndrome can have on educational attainment, which was interesting to research and write! I will share the results from this and the possible implications these can have soon, but I simply don’t have the time to write about it right now!

This semester is all about drama. I am directing a short play based on the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks which has been a really enjoyable experience (although it is testing my organisational skills!).

I am also going to be playing Dorothy in our university production of The Wizard of Oz. This is literally a dream come true for me. I never thought I would truly be able to tread the boards in a blue gingham dress with ruby slippers…but that’s what I will be doing in under three weeks time!

I feel lucky to be playing this role now, but a few years ago I would have thought it would be completely impossible for me to. But TS has not been a barrier to me achieving my goals and reaching my dreams! I have said things along these lines so many times before, and although I always tank I truly mean it, there is always a voice in my head to say the contrary. However, that little voice is now fading, and hopefully soon it will be gone for good!

A mentorship relationship has changed my life

I know I haven’t blogged in a while, but there has been a lot happening in my life and things have been pretty great. I want to update you all about something that has given me a lot of inspiration and hope about my future (and write this for myself to chronicle my college journey).

I signed up for a course I was very interested in at the beginning of the semester and was very nervous going into it. I was particularly nervous because the professor of the class is very prominent in the field I want to go into. I was nervous about how she would react to my tics and I was worried that my tics would influence what she thought I was capable of achieving (something my parents told me would happen when I was first diagnosed).

I KNOW that my tics don’t effect my ability to be a student, to write, do research or succeed and move forward with my goal of getting a PhD in a very research-oriented area in ANY way. But that thought of “what if she doesn’t understand” was in the back of my head. This class and my relationship with this professor has officially proved my parents so WRONG!

Every relationship I have had since my diagnosis, with a professor, a teacher, a mentor, a friend or a boyfriend has shown me that my tics will not effect what other people think of me or what they think I am capable of achieving. This relationship/mentorship however, has blown me away.

Putting things in perspective for my readers a little: My professor (who I will call Dr. Brown) is a full professor at a university that is ranked #14 in the country, is the principle investigator of a prominent research lab, has published coutless instrumental papers and is as I have said a prominent and well-known researcher in her field. In other words, she’s awesome and anyone who is anyone in this field knows how she is.

In the beginning of the semester I went to meet with her to tell her about my Tourette’s/ tics and how it would effect me in the classroom. I do this with all of my professors (especially for smaller classes) in which my tics might be more noticeable to those around me and to the professor. She reacted very well, like all of my other professors have. She was very relaxed about it and didn’t seem concerned at all.

Even though I was nervous about her seeing my tics in class, I was able to be relaxed and just be myself. I loved how she taught the class and was so fascinated by the material. Every class period I had with her, I felt more and more confident that this is exactly the field I wanted to go into. Every lecture held my attention for the entire 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a way that sparked my interest beyond that of any other class I have taken.

I started speaking up more in class and asking questions about the material. I wanted to know more and loved the discussions her material sparked in class. I also particularly enjoyed the writing assignments! Since this was a writing intensive class we had a paper abstract due almost every week and a midterm and final paper.

I stopped focusing on my tics in class, and more and more they weren’t even a thought in my mind during class because I was so interested and focused on what I was learning and how it applied to my independent research I do at the medical school.

Continue reading

We love teaching kids about Tourette Syndrome!

My sister Sarah and I did a New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) Youth Advocate Presentation for more than 150 7th-graders last week at Galloway Township Middle School, and to put it bluntly…we killed it. :)

The presentation went great. The audience really learned something and thought this was a great presentation to talk about. The kids were really into it and asked a lot of questions.  The Vice Principal, teachers and guidance counselor loved it. They said they want us to come back next year for the incoming 7th grade! Here are some pictures: