Alyssa Ram

At age seven, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. I tried to manage my multiple involuntary movements and vocalizations with medications and traditional therapies, but it was through volunteering with Special Olympics and participating in music that I was able to gain a new perspective on my disability, feel confident and have hope for the future.

From 2016 to 2020, while volunteering with the YMCA Adaptive Swim Team, I discovered the positive side of my Tourettes as it helped me be a better coach to my swimmers and use what I perceived to be my affliction, to help children who were suffering worse than I was. I used my athletic abilities to help children with special needs learn life-saving skills, achieve goals, feel accomplished, and for a moment, focus on what they can do and not on what they can’t do. I understand how hard it is to do an act, no matter how mundane, if your brain is continually sending you signals to do something else. Tourettes has given me a special perspective to help special needs children develop skills while understanding the struggle they are enduring. These athletes, however, have given me much more than I could ever give them, as they have helped me see my diagnosis as something I can use to help others. Volunteering with the Special Olympics led to me being offered employment as a YMCA swim instructor and summer camp counselor. This experience has had a significant impact on how I perceive my disability and others with health challenges.

Outside of school and work, I like to spend my time listening to, and performing, music. My musical career may have started with a subpar recorder concert in 3rd grade, but as I grew up, I found that singing was where I was more musically inclined. Once I got over my fear of being ridiculed or bullied for doing my tics on stage, I realized that music actually helped me control my tourettes. I went on to participate in both high school and community musicals, acapella groups, and audition chorale. I even won the National Choral Award for my high school in my senior year. When I sing or play piano, my mind becomes relaxed, my anxiety is reduced, and something in my brain turns off the signal to do my physical and vocal tics. I have also witnessed the effect that music has on my uncle who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. As a result of this experience, the study of music and its effects on the brain is of great interest to me and has inspired me to study neurosciences.

Although living with Tourettes is a continual struggle, I am currently in a good place and I look forward to pursuing my neurosciences degree and eventually medicine, so that I can help others who are struggling become successful and confident as well.