South Jersey teens with Tourette Syndrome train as youth leaders

NJCTS Youth Development Coordinator Melissa Fowler, M.Ed., leads South Jersey teens in leadership training at Virtua Health and Wellness Center in Voorhees on January 31.

Teens in South Jersey are ready to reach out and help peers and health-care professionals understand the complexities of life with Tourette Syndrome (TS).

TS is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary sounds or movements known as tics. In addition, the majority of people with TS also have an accompanying disorder like ADHD, OCD, depression or anxiety. As many as 1 in 100 Americans show symptoms of TS, but TS is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood by the medical community.  

The New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) is working to combat stigma and improve diagnosis through its Education Outreach Program.

“People living with a neurological disorder understand the world in a very unique way,” said Faith W. Rice, NJCTS executive director, “They can describe life with TS in ways that are having a profound effect on the community, healthcare providers, peers and educators – putting a face on an often misunderstood disorder.”

On January 31, 10 local teens and their families gathered at the Virtua Health and Wellness Center in Voorhees for an NJCTS Youth Advocate training session.

“There are families in this part of the state who are struggling without the proper diagnosis and appropriate treatments,” said Rice, “The teens we work with, because of their challenges, have an understanding and compassion far beyond their years.”

The goal is to produce teen advocates who will represent NJCTS in peer in-service trainings at local schools and will present information about TS to health-care professionals. The NJCTS Patient-Centered Education Program trains Youth Advocates to attend hospital grand rounds sessions and educate resident physicians on how to identify and recognize patients with TS.

“I now feel like I have the power to help people with TS on a larger scale,” said one participant, who chose to remain anonymous. “The training helped me realize how much more I can be doing.”

“These teens are uniquely talented, poised and capable of delivering a message that is already making difference across our state,” said Rice, “Our hope is that we will contribute to more accurate diagnosis and a safer environment for kids who are living with TS and other neurological disorders.”

To learn more about Tourette Syndrome, and the programs and services of NJCTS, visit www.njcts.org or call 908-575-7350.

NJ Walks for TS really making a difference all over New Jersey

My name is Sarah. I’m a senior in high school, a Youth Advocate for the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) and Youth Co-Chair of the 5th annual NJ Walks for TS event in Mendham, NJ.

I am writing to urge you, your family and friends to come out and join us when NJ Walks for TS at Mendham on November 15. Click here to register.

All proceeds from this very special event support the NJCTS Education Outreach Program which provides information and training to teachers, doctors and students statewide to ensure greater understanding and acceptance for kids and adults living with Tourette Syndrome.

I have been a part of this program for the past four years and have personally presented a message of acceptance and stigma-conquering facts to well over a thousand school kids, teachers and doctors.

Not only does the program educate professionals but it provides kids like me with an opportunity to develop skills as a public speaker and advocate; and it also strengthens my ability to deal with my own Tourette Syndrome diagnosis.

Parents of kids with TS also present workshops to teachers and doctors and TS experts join our team to present grand rounds at hospitals in every part of New Jersey.

To date, more than 60,000 NJ teachers and doctors have attended our presentations. Please help this program to continue to grow by giving generously to our Walk and throughout the year.

We are happy to provide any additional information on this and other NJCTS program offerings. Thanks for helping us make an enormous difference in the lives of so many kids and families.

See you on November 15 when NJ Walks for TS at Mendham. Here is another way you can participate, too!

Tic-tic BOOM!

Hello all! I’m going to be frank; I’m new to the blog-world. Please forgive me if I sound too formal/don’t sound formal enough/don’t interest you/etc. etc. etc. I’m trying this out, and we’ll have to see if I have ANY skill. Perhaps I’m the next “Reality Steve”. Who knows?

OK. Since I’m aware this is ACTUALLY a wholesome teen blog (by the teens, for the teens) about Tourette Syndrome, I’m going to change topics. Hi! I’m Sarah! *Cue the “Hiiiiiiii Sarahs”* I’m a 17-year-old high school senior. When I was 7, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in 10 minutes flat. My parents were left with an uncomfortable diagnosis, no direction, and a tic-ing time bomb (see what I did there?). Not knowing what to do, they decided to keep quiet. No one knew about my TS until I hit the third grade. Only then did we realize as a family that silence only led to confusion and misunderstanding.

Since then I’ve been certified as a Youth Ambassador for Tourette Syndrome, and I’ve spent a great amount of time and effort presenting to more than 3,000 children, teachers, and doctors in order to displace the myths and stereotypes associated with this medical condition. It’s been a long ride, but also a great one. Now I’m here.

I sing, dance, act, and play a host of sports. I love long walks on the beach, and I’m a total catch ;) haha. However, jokes aside, I’m a girl who has learned, with a lot of practice, to overcome any obstacle Tourette Syndrome has ever thrown my way. I’m proud to say I can do anything and EVERYTHING I set my mind to, and I live for that challenge. My advice? Show everyone what you can do, and don’t apologize for everything that makes you great—including your TS. It’s a part of you. It’s a part of me. But it ISN’T ME. I’m greater than a diagnosis, stronger than the sum of my parts. I can’t wait to share myself with you.

Tic-tic BOOM!

Things Tim Howard Could Save … the world?

Today I was standing in line to get lunch and was doing a bunch of vocal tics and the person standing in front of me wasn’t reacting a whole bunch, so I thought to myself, “Maybe she knows what Tourette’s is because of Tim Howard. Maybe one day everyone will know what Tourette’s is and people will stop staring at me in public when i’m ticcing.” What a nice thought it was.

Also Tim Howard is becoming an internet sensation!!! #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave is trending right now on Twitter and if he could save your parents divorce and the save the citizens from being eaten by Jaws, maybe just maybe he could save my sanity one of these days!!! Lol, OK maybe i’m being a bit dramatic, stares in public don’t make me loose my sanity completely, but I sure would feel a lot better if people stared less often!

2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “I Have No Regrets”

This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2014 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

When the word “disease” is said, overcoming is definitely not the first thing that comes to peoples’ minds. In my opinion, having Tourette’s is a battle. I have been bullied, ridiculed, and laughed at. I think a lot about the kid I could have become, that is, if I surrendered. But luckily, I didn’t.

I managed to muster the strength and courage to face my problem. In fact, I sometimes convince myself that I no longer have TS. I have accepted the fact that I will never be cured of this. So what does this mean for me? Hide behind excuses for the rest of my life? Succumb to being a nobody? Not anymore.

Ever since I entered high school, I slowly started to see the best out of every situation. I have used my tics to my advantage by channeling my energy into something positive: setting goals and achieving them. Why should I let TS get in the way of challenging myself? I found that I can use this obstacle to my advantage.

When I was in middle school, I definitely didn’t have the same optimism about having TS as I do now. Unfortunately back then, I fell into the trap of self-pity. I would always make excuses for myself. I didn’t challenge myself in school because I thought my mental abilities weren’t sufficient for mainstream classes.

My bizarre motor tics made me feel out of place and ashamed. My fear was that people would make fun of me, especially this one tic in particular (that I still have today) where I tweak my neck to the side to feel temporary relief. If I held my tics in, I felt like exploding. Often times I would tic then nonchalantly try to cover it up by using “normal” gestures, such as cracking my neck.

Once I gained the courage to move into mainstream classes in my last year of middle school, things weren’t as bad as I had anticipated.

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