Watch NJCTS Youth Advocate Tess Kowalski’s interview on ABC’ NJ Viewpoint

We are so proud of NJCTS Youth Advocate Tess Kowalski and Tim Kowalski who were interviewed by ABC’s Ken Rosato for NJ Viewpoint. Thank you for representing NJCTS and for all you continue to do to raise Tourette Syndrome awareness! If you missed the segment that aired on Sunday you can watch it here. Bravo!

The GreaTS have arrived!

TheGreaTS_NJCTS_BannerChange the world. Stand With The GreaTS! Join the global community to break down social stigmas, create awareness, and provide support resources around Tourette Syndrome. This is your chance to make a difference. Get involved today at standwiththegreats.org. Share your message of support using #standwiththegreats.

Teens Hit the Town for NJ Walks for TS

There’s a pack of girls on the loose in Central Jersey. The Youth Co-Chairs of the NJ Walks for Tourette Syndrome at Princeton are going door-to-door recruiting support for their mission of advocacy on behalf of the 1 in 100 New Jersey kids living with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological condition known for involuntary movements or sounds known as tics.

Tess Kowalski, 16, of Plainsboro; Hallie Hoffman, 16, of Hillsborough; and Ally Abad, 16, of North Brunswick understand the physical, emotional, and academic challenges that accompany a TS diagnosis. All three are uniquely talented and share a passion for demystifying the disorder by volunteering as Youth Advocates through the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS). They are trained to deliver educational presentations to clinicians, teachers, and peers to build acceptance and understanding of TS.

All proceeds from NJ Walks for TS at Princeton will benefit the NJCTS Education Outreach Program, which provides in-service trainings and Youth Advocate presentations to schools and hospitals across the state, promoting awareness of the disorder.

Tess, Hallie, and Ally are spokespersons not just for the walk, but for the programs the walk will benefit.

“I love to educate the public, teachers, and students about TS so that one day, a kid will have TS and will be accepted because their friends and teachers would have already learned about it,” said Tess. “(As a Youth Advocate) I’m speaking up so that they won’t have to. I hope that soon, a kid with TS won’t have to explain their condition to other kids, that their friends will already know about TS and accept them.”

Tess and her sister Paige, 13, were the inspiration for the Princeton event of NJCTS’s statewide NJ Walks for TS program. The Kowalski Family, led by Tim and Leslie, have served as hosts since 2014. NJ Walks began in 2010 in North Jersey as the first advocacy event for kids, by kids, to benefit NJ kids.

The Youth Co-chairs are asking residents and local businesses for a show of support by registering for the 5K walk/family fun run at www.njcts.org.

Ally invites walkers, runners, kids, and families of all abilities to join the movement on April 3rd because “not only is it a nice thing to do, but it’s important to learn about what other people go through.”

“Having so many people from the local community—whether they have TS or not—makes everyone feel incredibly encouraged and accepted,” adds Hallie. “Whether you have TS or not, the walk is a fun and active event that takes little effort but makes a huge difference for the people affected by its benefits.”

To help these three in their walk for TS, join them on April 3rd at Mercer County Park West in West Windsor for an afternoon of fun, food from The Corner Bakery Cafe at Princeton Marketfair, music from NJ 101.5, and a message of self-empowerment by registering today at www.njcts.org or call 908-575-7350.

Tess and Paige are on a roll!

NJCTS Youth Advocates Tess and Paige Kowalski have been on a roll lately. In addition to their presentation at Hamilton Primary School they also presented to the 6th grade class at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, NJ this week. They educated approximately 50 students and 2 instructors about Tourette Syndrome and the associated disorders and shared their TS stories. Brava, ladies!

Tess and Paige educate Temple Emanu-El about Tourette Syndrome

Tess and Paige educate Temple Emanu-El about Tourette Syndrome and the associated disorders

Some of the factors that cause tics to increase

Some of the factors that cause tics to increase

Tess and Paige show a clip of "I Have Tourette's but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me"

Tess and Paige show a clip of “I Have Tourette’s but Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me”

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Tess and Paige lead the group in an exercise to help them understand what it can be like living with TS.

Tess and Paige lead the group in an exercise to help them understand what it can be like living with TS.

Tess and Paige take questions from the class.

Tess and Paige take questions from the class.

NJCTS Youth Advocates educate students at Hamilton Primary School about TS

Earlier this week, NJCTS Youth Advocates Tess and Paige Kowalski were joined by Youth Advocate-in-training Cami Jimenez to present to the third graders at Hamilton Primary School in Bridgewater, NJ. More than 115 students learned about Tourette Syndrome, acceptance, and treating others with respect. After school that same day, Education Outreach Coordinator Gina Maria Jones presented to 50 faculty and staff members. Now, the Hamilton School community has the tools to help kids with TS thrive. Way to go, ladies!

Paige and Tess discuss what causes tics to become worse.

Paige and Tess discuss what causes tics to become worse.

Paige and Tess share their TS stories.

Paige and Tess share their TS stories.

Cami, Paige, and Tess take questions from the third graders.

Cami, Paige, and Tess take questions from the third graders.

NJCTS Education Outreach Coordinator Gina Maria Jones looks on as the Youth Advocates answer questions.

NJCTS Education Outreach Coordinator Gina Maria Jones looks on as the Youth Advocates answer questions.

 

NJCTS Youth Advocates present to nearly 900 students and teachers about Tourette Syndrome

Eric Baldwin, Sarah Baldwin, Rachel Flynn, Principal Robin Bazzel, and Anna Baldwin after their presentation on Tourette Syndrome and the Associated Disorders at Clearview Middle School.

Eric Baldwin, Sarah Baldwin, Rachel Flynn, Principal Robin Bazzel, and Anna Baldwin after their presentation on Tourette Syndrome and the Associated Disorders at Clearview Middle School.

Today, NJCTS Youth Advocates Anna, Sarah, and Eric Baldwin presented to the 7th and 8th graders at Clearview Middle School in Mullica Hill, NJ. Nearly 900 students and teachers learned about Tourette Syndrome, tolerance, and acceptance. The Baldwins were joined by their cousin Rachel who spoke about her TS for the first time! Here they are with Clearview Middle School Principal Robin Bazzel. We are so proud of the great work this family is up to, spreading understanding and awareness of TS throughout South Jersey. Bravo!

Research project: Looking for participants to count their tics

My name is Rebecca and I am a 7th grade student at St. Gregory the Great Academy in Hamilton, New Jersey. Every year, I am required to submit a science experiment to the Mercer County Science and Engineering Fair. This year, I have decided to conduct my research on Tourette Syndrome. I have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome since I was nine years old and I have a high level of interest in understanding more about the disorder. Many organizations, including: NJCTS, Camp Twitch and Shout, the Rutgers University Tourette Syndrome Clinic and my private doctors and psychologists, have been a tremendous help to me and my family in coping with my Tourette Syndrome. I have learned to accept my tics and to be proud of myself and my accomplishments. I am so much more than a kid with Tourette Syndrome. I am also a great student, a competitive swimmer, an avid reader and a lot of fun to be around!

Right now, I am asking for help with my research on Tourette Syndrome. I am looking for participants with Tourette Syndrome to count their tics for me. My hypothesis is that students with Tourette Syndrome will have an increase in tics after school. I need volunteers who are willing to count their tics for 30 minutes on 3 school days and 3 non-school days. My experiment is due on January 11, 2016, so I am hoping to collect all of my data by the end of December.  

Here’s what you need to participate: A permission form and an explanation of the procedure and a data collection table. Please contact me at 609-647-6051 or dheimowitz@gmail.com if you have any questions.

The Application for the 2016 NJCTS Tim Howard Leadership Academy is now Available!

Leadership Academy logoThe NJCTS Tim Howard Leadership Academy is a unique and invaluable learning experience for teens with Tourette Syndrome. Over the course of these rigorous four days, participants will stay overnight at Rutgers University, attend engaging workshops that provide a deeper understanding of their diagnoses, participate in small group discussions and be encouraged to share personal triumphs and challenges, and will be challenged through numerous educational activities to develop their sense of self-leadership, self-empowerment, and resilience. Eligible applicants:

  • Have a diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome from a qualified medical practitioner
  • Are entering their Sophomore year of high school through having just completed their Senior year of high school by the summer of 2016
  • Have an active interest in, and commitment to, their vision of themselves as leaders
  • Are comfortable being away from home for four consecutive days and nights
  • Can comfortably and meaningfully participate in an intensive, demanding learning experience with others who share their diagnoses, which includes comfort interacting with others and sharing information about themselves, comfort discussing their diagnosis, and comfort being around others who tic and have anxiety disorders.
  • Ability to sit in a workshop setting for up to an hour at a time

Top THLA 2015Please note that the application has changed significantly for 2016:

  • Requires feedback and a questionnaire from a medical practitioner who has seen the applicant within the past 12 months.
  • Requires feedback from an educator who has worked with the applicant in a classroom setting in the past 12 months.

Because consideration for admittance is dependent on all aspects of the application being completed, you are advised to begin the application process as soon as possible to ensure a completed application is submitted by the deadline. 

APPLICATIONS ARE DUE BY MARCH 1, 2016.   

Participants form lasting connections, gain a better understanding of themselves, and walk away with a toolkit that prepares them for a successful future! Interested applicants should request an application by contacting Academy Director, Melissa Fowler, via email at mfowler@njcts.org. Applicants who are being considered for admittance will be contacted for an interview by March 20th, 2016.

Thank you for your interest, and best of luck!

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

The NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome joins the movement to prevent bullying,

expanding its Youth Advocate Program

NJCTS Youth Advocate Mike Hayden presents to the Cresskill school district.

NJCTS Youth Advocate Mike Hayden presents to the Cresskill school district.

This October, schools and organizations all across the country are observing National Bullying Prevention Month. All students should feel safe in school and have the opportunity to grow and thrive, academically and socially, and through its  Youth Advocate program, the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders (NJCTS) is taking special steps to prevent bullying.

NJCTS Youth Advocate presentations inform youth about Tourette Syndrome (TS)—a misunderstood and misdiagnosed disorder that affects 1 in 100 school-aged children who are often the targets of bullying. Advocates are 13- to 18-years-old and either have a TS diagnosis or live with a sibling or family member with TS. In addition to providing an overview of the neurological disorder, the Advocates promote understanding and tolerance, and deliver a strong anti-bullying message. The presentations have grown to include a discussion of the Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.

“NJCTS has long been and continues to be one of the most important organizations addressing childhood bullying in NJ schools,” said Dr. Stuart Green, Director of NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention and Associate Director of Overlook Family Medicine. “Their innovative youth advocacy program provides a much-needed service. The program empowers and gives voice to youth with TS, shines a light on a commonly misunderstood and stigmatized condition, and helps NJ youth and their teachers strengthen their empathy for those who are vulnerable and targeted. The NJCTS Youth Advocates are heroes for an important cause – they deserve our recognition and support.”

In recognition of the efforts to improve school climate and reduce rates of bullying, NJCTS regularly coordinates Youth Advocate presentations in schools and community groups, reaching thousands of students throughout New Jersey. Since the program’s launch in 2009, NJCTS Youth Advocates have conducted more than 250 presentations, raising awareness and increasing sensitivity and understanding.

“Our Youth Advocates foster understanding, sensitivity, and tolerance of TS while displacing the myths and stereotypes that are often associated with this misunderstood and misdiagnosed disorder,” said NJCTS Executive Director Faith W. Rice. “By educating others, we hope that each new generation will grow up with a better understanding of TS, making biases a thing of the past.”

During National Bullying Prevention Month, NJCTS will be training a new “class” of Advocates on Saturday, October 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Morris County Library, 30 East Hanover Ave., Whippany, NJ 07981.

For more information or to attend the training, please contact Gina Maria Jones, M.Ed, NJCTS Education Outreach Coordinator, at gjones@njcts.org or 908-575-7350.

2015 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “My Story with Tourette’s”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2015 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

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NyamekeS

Ever since I was a child, I have had small symptoms of Tourette Syndrome. I use to blink my eyes multiple times, when I hiccuped it was extremely loud and annoying. I use to get made fun of because of my hiccups but it didn’t acquire to me or my parents that this had something to do with Tourette Syndrome. My parents and I didn’t notice my symptoms on February 2011. In February I had an attack where I couldn’t stop shaking my hands my head jerks quickly. I was rushed to the hospital where I was tested for several diagnoses but not Tourette Syndrome. Towards the end of my visit, they then brought a neurologist in who then proceeded to diagnosing me with T.S.

Since I was diagnosed with T.S., it was very challenging to accept myself. I always doubt myself thinking I couldn’t do anything. I questioned my parents and God blaming them for what I thought was a sickening disorder. Everyday during class I made my tics however, they were small and I made them slightly noticeable. As the years progressed, I started to feel comfortable with myself and my parents always told me “God will never give you something you can’t handle”. After hearing this quote and eventually believing it I started to open myself more and began to tell my teachers and close friends. My tics grew slightly bigger but I never tried to hide it. Last year, in my major class which is Child Development, we did a research project on children with special needs. I figured this was the perfect time to share what I know, learn and a bit about me to the majority of the class who didn’t know that I have Tourette Syndrome. Towards the end of the presentation I asked my class if they know anyone with Tourette, only two students raised their hands. I continued with saying “You should all raise your hand because I have Tourette Syndrome”. The class was shocked but they never left my side, they supported me through everything I did. They brought Tourette Syndrome awareness buttons for T.S. Awareness month. All of the students in my class made me realize, that if I can share my story, I can do anything I put my mind to.

As a future educator in the child development field, I want to spread the word about Tourette Syndrome. I don’t only want my students to be aware but my coworkers as well. Telling my coworkers and my students will spread the word to other coworkers, students family members until the whole state, better yet, country is aware of this motivational disorder. I want my preschoolers to know that just because people have disorders or may look different doesn’t mean they are different. I want them to learn about bullying and how it shouldn’t be practiced at all. As a future educator, I want my preschoolers to see the positive of everyone with a disorder and/or disability. People with disorders or disabilities are just as smart, caring, loving and friendly as people without disorders or disabilities. Yes, I have had some challenges and I am still going through them. But I also remember, just because I have Tourette Syndrome doesn’t make things impossible for me, just a little difficult.