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

Tourette Syndrome is so much more than tics

Sorry there hasn’t been any posts in a while. All of us are busy with exams at the moment.

I would like to share with you my speech I did for my GCSE English Speaking exam about Tourette Syndrome so here it is:

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological condition which is categorised by “tics”. Tics are rapid and recurrent uncontrollable movements and noises. People who suffer from Tourettes are usually diagnosed at around 6-9 years old. Although, people may be diagnosed earlier or later than this. I, personally, was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome 9 years ago, when I was 7 years old.

I have always been treated differently due to being adopted and, therefore, having older parents. I was always known as “the weird one”. People can be very mean when you’re different. I have always had Tourettes since I was little. I would often do something without realising and then get told off because of it.

I still do occasionally get told off for my tics, but then the person remembers that I have Tourettes and that I can’t help it. Even my parents do this sometimes. I may be tapping on something and they’ll tell me to stop only for me to remind them that I can’t help it. I feel like this only happens due to peoples perception of what a tic should look or sound like, but the thing is that there is no structure to a tic. They can be anything at all. My tapping tic is where I have to tap an object using a certain pattern which I have to repeat in sets of four until it feels right and if I mess it up, I must start the pattern all over again.

I can understand how my parents sometimes do not realise this is a tic, because it isn’t just a tic. It is also due to OCD. The counting part is OCD, and the part where I have to do it again and again if I mess up is also to do with OCD. It isn’t as though I think something bad will happen if I don’t do it, it is that my OCD makes me feel as though something might happen if I don’t complete it.

Due to Tourettes I also have other, related, disorders. OCD is the one I just mentioned.

I also have ADHD which causes me to get distracted very easily, causing me to often get told off in class for not concentrating, and I often miss things the teacher says due to getting distracted by others or writing down notes – I find it hard to concentrate on writing and listening at the same time.

There is also Sensory Processing Disorder. This means that I do not process sensory input in the same way as others do. There are certain noises I do not like and the only way to explain how they affect me in a way you’ll understand is that they hurt me, that is why I have my ear defenders. They protect me from these noises and I can also use them when I need to write and there is too much noise.

Due to this, at dinner time, I tend to sit in a different room to eat or listen to music while I eat so I don’t hear the sound of cutlery scraping on plates. My parents try not to do this, but it is hard to eat without touching your plate with the knife or fork so everyday, except Sunday, I sit in a separate room to eat. Hearing these certain noises that I am sensitive to makes it extremely hard to concentrate as all I end up thinking about is how I want the noise to stop, or that I want to get away from the sound.

All of this is just due to having Tourette Syndrome. People always assume that they know everything about Tourettes but it is so much more and can affect those with it in many different ways. I need people to know that there aren’t only tics that I have to deal with, but there are also OCD rituals as well as concentration and sensory issues too.

Tourette Syndrome is so much more than just tics. I want others to see that. Thank you.

Guest Blogger: Tourette Syndrome + OCD was exhausting & difficult

It was more than 23 years ago that I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.

I’ve learned a lot in that time. About myself, about others and most of all, that our relationship with mental health and conditions like TS is far more challenging than it should be.

My parents had a lot on their plate, jobs, managing a household, raising 3 children (one with considerable special needs), when I started developing some unfamiliar behaviours. A reoccurring urge to violently shake my head was one that began to frighten them. I once became so distracted with this urge that I stopped my bicycle in the middle of the road to indulge, without paying attention to the flow of cars around me. Sometime after that we began seeing doctors and specialists and figuring out what was going on.

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological condition that essentially causes repeated involuntary movements and sounds that are referred to as “tics”. It affects everyone differently, and contrary to what you may have seen in movies, most persons affected by it do not swear uncontrollably.

Tourette Syndrome was something seemingly unknown to most people and there was lots of learning for all of us to do. What was most challenging for me wasn’t necessarily my life at home or these urges (“tics”). It wasn’t that I had to live with them that caused me the most trouble, it was that I was expected to live a normal life in a world that wasn’t always going to just let it happen.

From experience, I quickly knew that each time I gave in to my tics, someone was going to notice. I knew that each time someone noticed, they were going to make choices. Were they going to pretend nothing happened? Were they going to exploit the opportunity to make a spectacle of it and lead others in a chorus of teasing and diminishment of my character? Or were they going to simply get “weirded out” and lose trust in even being near me?

Naturally, thinking about all of these things stressed me out and just fuelled more of a need to indulge my tics. Trying to hide and suppress them took a lot of energy. During the worst of it, there were probably days where I spent most of my time managing these expectations and very little on school work, engaging with friends or anything else until I finally had a moment of privacy. I was usually too exhausted to do a whole lot with those moments.

As I’ve written before, there were other things also happening to make my childhood difficult in ways that probably interacted with or exasperated this condition.

Continue reading

Youth Co-Chair believes people won’t be sorry if they come to NJ Walks for TS at Princeton on March 29

NJ Walks for TS at Princeton is a 5K walk and family fun run on March 29. With a little more than 2 weeks to go, now is the best time to register and start getting in shape for spring.

“People won’t be sorry they came,” Youth Co-Chair Ethan Lederman said. “They’ll get exercise, meet some great people who have TS, and support this very important cause.”

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. It often accompanied by other disorders including ADHD, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and learning disabilities. As many as 1 in 100 school children show symptoms of TS, which means there are more than 20,000 New Jersey children living with the disorder.

“It can be really, really difficult to live with TS, because you usually don’t just have TS but TS and a bunch of other disorders,” Ethan said. “It helps if you’ve known someone with TS because it’s hard to describe how it can affect your life and you might be more sympathetic about reminding people not to stare or assume you’re just a ‘bad kid.’ ”

Ethan met Tess and Paige Kowalski through the family retreat weekend program of the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS). Tess and Paige both have TS, and Tess is the teen responsible for bringing NJ Walks to the Princeton area.

“We’ve had a lot of the same struggles with TS,” Ethan said.

Ethan and the Kowalski’s also share an interest in educating the public about the disorder. Through the NJCTS Youth Advocate Program, the teens travel throughout the state meeting with political leaders, and delivering trainings to peers and healthcare professionals.

“This year, I got to speak to a state senator and Senator [Robert] Menendez’s staff on all the ways I’m very grateful to have NJCTS,” Ethan said. “TS isn’t something people talk about very much. I’m very proud to be part of the walk because I know it will be a good one. It is very important because it spreads awareness of TS, which not that many people really understand.”

Proceeds from NJ Walks for TS will benefit the Education Outreach Programs of NJCTS, which include youth leadership development, in-services for educators and students, hospital grand rounds presentations for healthcare professionals and scholarships for students with TS.

“NJ Walks for TS is a one-of-a-kind event for kids, by kids,” NJCTS Executive Director Faith W. Rice said. “Our Youth Co-Chair committee is working hard to spread the word and invite the public to join us in a celebration of awareness, advocacy and acceptance.”

With spring and warm weather around the corner, now is the time to prepare for one of the first 5Ks of the season, or simply a stroll with friends and family. Registration and donations can be made through www.njcts.org.

New Jersey teen wants to see more acceptance and education

NJ+Walks+for+TS+LOGO2Hallie Hoffman wants you to know that people with Tourette Syndrome (TS) are more than just their diagnosis.

“TS is just one group we belong to, just as people may identify themselves with other groups such as athletes or musicians,” she said, “TS is not a disorder that puts people at social odds with others, as it is sometimes portrayed in the media.”

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. It is often accompanied by other disorders including ADHD, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and learning disabilities. As many as 1 in 100 school-age children show symptoms of TS, which means there are more than 20,000 New Jersey children living with the disorder. Hallie is one of them, and she joins other teens as Youth Co-Chairs for this year’s NJ Walks for TS at Princeton.

NJ Walks for TS is a 5K walk and family fun run at Mercer County Park on March 29 by the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS). The event raises awareness while breaking the stigma attached to the disorder.

“Our mission is one of acceptance and education, and we need the public’s help to accomplish this.” said Hallie.

To help is to attend the walk or donate. Proceeds from NJ Walks for TS will benefit the Education Outreach Programs of NJCTS, which include youth leadership development, in-services for educators and students, hospital grand rounds presentations for healthcare professionals and scholarships for students with TS.

Education is a very powerful tool in fighting the stigma attached to this disorder, and Hallie knows this well. Her interest in learning more about TS led her to invite a speaker to her school to talk about the disorder- before she even had a diagnosis.

“Even though I knew I had TS, my parents were afraid that if I got the diagnosis, I would be bullied by my peers,” Hallie said. ” It was my interest in educating others about TS that helped me confront my parents about getting a diagnosis, and shortly after I became trained as a Youth Advocate for NJCTS.”

Youth Advocates travel to schools and hospitals to train students and healthcare professionals about TS. Last summer, Hallie was in the first class of the Tim Howard NJCTS Leadership Academy.

“Young people with TS are a force, they are motivated and dedicated to helping their peers living with TS and other neurological disorders,” NJCTS Executive Director Faith W. Rice said. “NJ Walks for TS was founded for kids, by kids- and the work they are able to accomplish will help a new generation.”

Hallie is counting on the public to make this year’s event bigger than ever.

“Not only is [NJ Walks for TS] really fun, but it’s a great way to be a part of a larger goal,” she said. “A 5K may not seem that important, but the support shown and the money raised make a huge difference.”