When I was in Kindergarten, I was held back. I couldn’t read or learn at the same pace as other children. What my parents didn’t realize, I was concentrating on keeping my body from producing tics. They took me to doctors and therapists trying to get a diagnosis. As I am sure you understand I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t help them in their search to find out what was causing me to not learn at the same pace as my peers. When I reached second grade, my parents had exhausted most of their options but I was finally diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist as having Childhood Tourette’s Syndrome. My condition is not only the verbal type, I also have physical manifestation. What we learned was I was concentrating on not having my spasms and sudden tics and therefore not concentrating on learning. At this same time, my parents found a school in the Orlando area that specialized in children with learning challenges. I understand now, that my learning challenge was created by my efforts to not be made fun of by other students when I would have a physical spasm. However, I was then several years behind the curve and had to learn the most basic tools that many children my age had already mastered. This late start in learning has continued to have an impact as I still struggle with certain types of academic learning. I often need additional instruction but I never give up.
I am very pleased and proud to tell you that I have been blessed with incredible parents, teachers, doctors and support. I have come a long way from being that 10 year old boy who enrolled in a school where I was promised I would not be made fun of and, more importantly, I would learn.
While at my current school I have been accepted into the National Honor Society. I have maintained a grade point average well over 3.5 and, in 2013; I was the recipient of the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award which is given by the President’s Education Award Program. Seeing my parents and grandparents applaud and cry, as the letter from President Obama was read to the assembly, was one of the proudest moments of my life. I realize now, I can manage my condition and flourish despite of it. In many ways I have been blessed by having Tourette’s Syndrome.
I believe my initial efforts to mask my tics, in public school, developed some of my artistic skills. I found relief in art and drawing. I want to go to college to develop these skills even further and once again prove that my disability is actually an opportunity. It reminds me daily, that I can be whatever I want to be and even though life is sometimes difficult, hard work and belief in oneself will always be enough to succeed.