I have Tourette Syndrome. It was not until I turned 13 that I even knew it had a name. I always knew I HAD to make strange movements and noises, I just never knew why. And after my disability was given a name, my life changed forever.
Having TS is like an open door for bullying. Classmates and adults laugh, stare and imitate. My freshman year of high school there was a boy in my science class who would harass and imitate me every day, no matter how many adults got involved. I tried not to let it bother me, since I cannot help these tics. It was then that I decided to do something about it.
I joined the Long Island Tourette support group. A part of this group is made up of teenagers called Youth Ambassadors. In 2017 I went to Washington DC with kids from all over the United States and we trained to become Youth Ambassadors. We learned how to talk about and teach about Tourette Syndrome, its comorbidities, and the bullying associated with Tourette. We went to Capitol Hill and advocated to our Senators and House members to continue funding Tourette education and research programs.
Becoming a Youth Ambassador has changed my life. I meet with classes and organizations and teach them about what Tourette is, what it is like to live with Tourette, explain about acceptance and discuss how it is not ok to bully anyone. We mostly go to elementary and middle schools, but recently we have added physician assistant and nursing classes at the college level. My favorite class to present to is when there is a student in the class who has Tourette. We discuss with them beforehand how involved they want to be in the presentation. We incorporate their tics and concerns into the lesson so the rest of the class is exactly aware of who we are talking about. Usually, after the presentation, the child in the class with Tourette is so relieved and happy to finally have their Tourette out in the open. They have joy and hope that the bullying will stop and their school lives will improve.
Educating peers about acceptance and love when it comes to people who are not like them is the best part of being a Youth Ambassador. I am able to put my head down on my pillow at night knowing I made a difference in the life of someone who suffers just as I do. One of the main reasons I chose to attend Molloy College is because of their importance of community service. I am excited to continue spreading awareness about Tourette and bullying.