John Capper

Living with Tourette syndrome has had its obstacles, but those hurdles have brought me unique benefits. When I went through elementary school, I was fortunate enough to have classmates who were generally accepting and helpful of my disorder. Since first grade, I have participated in a Spanish immersion program which means all of my classes from first to fifth grade had the same students. Even though many of them didn’t know about my Tourette’s, they understood that I was slightly different and were very kindhearted about it.

As I began middle school, my Spanish classes weren’t all day, which meant most of my classes included new classmates. It was hard. The bigger classes and lots of new faces brought an uncomfortable atmosphere that I wasn’t used to. Being in class would give me lots of anxiety and make my tics nearly impossible to control. In the periods where I sat in the front of the class, my head-turn tic would get so bad that eventually I would turn back and see dozens of faces staring at me as if I was some weirdo. Tests were the worst. When taking an exam in a silent environment, trying to stop my sniff and grunt tics would make them worse and often lead to the occasional shush by a classmate. I always had that feeling that I was being judged by others and it made me feel awful. Numerous times I’d come home to a sore neck or just be exhausted from trying to suppress my tics all day. My tics were both mentally and physically draining.

As I go through senior year and get ready for college, I look back and see how fortunate I’ve been to have such great support with my Tourette’s. My mother, who has TS as well, has been nothing but helpful. She understands what I’m going through and goes out of her way to make sure my tics don’t stop me from succeeding. I’ve also had the privilege of having teachers who are caring and don’t draw attention to my tics.

Yes, it’s still hard having Tourette syndrome. Yes, there are still days in class where it can’t be suppressed, but I’ve learned to cope with it and see it as beneficial overall. It has made me more empathetic to people who may be a little different. I have gained an understanding that everyone has their own “problems” but that doesn’t define who they are. I see Tourette syndrome as an opportunity for strength and valuable overall as I enter college and become an adult