2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “My Life with Tourette Syndrome”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2016 Youth Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

Having Tourette Syndrome has impacted my life in so many ways. It has influenced the choices I’ve made and the people I’ve met. My experience with Tourette’s has helped shape me into the person I am today. I’m not ashamed of my Tourette’s (in fact, I’m almost proud of it), and I feel that it has helped make me a better person.

I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in the fifth grade, at the age of ten. I’ve suffered from vocal and motor tics since I was in the second grade. Neither I nor my parents understood what caused them, and my teachers and other students would often become frustrated with me. Even my own family would grow tired of my constant noise-making and movements. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Eventually, someone told my mother to look into Tourette Syndrome. I was finally diagnosed with Tourette’s in the fall of 2008.

Instead of letting my Tourette’s drag me down, I used my diagnosis as motivation to better myself. I began taking karate lessons later the same year after my diagnosis. In eighth grade, I decided to play football. It was a rough season, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Football gave me an outlet in which to channel my frustration. I was never a great athlete, but I worked hard, so by my senior year, I had earned a starting varsity spot on my high school’s football team.

In my junior year, I participated in a research study for a new Tourette’s medication. This was done at Overlook Hospital, in Summit, New Jersey, under the supervision of Dr. Roger Kurlan. The medicine worked well for me. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to be able to possibly help others with Tourette’s.

In conclusion, Tourette Syndrome is a part of my life. My experiences with Tourette’s have greatly contributed to the person that I am today. I’m not ashamed of my Tourette’s, instead I embrace it as part of who I am. I have never let my Tourette’s drag me down, and I hope to inspire others with Tourette’s to embrace it and use it as motivation to better themselves as well.

2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “A Journey with Tourette Syndrome”

This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2016 Youth Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

JordanT

JordanT

Tourette Syndrome has played a significant role in my life ever since I was diagnosed in fifth grade. Initially, it did not pose much of a threat for me. I was still able to focus during school, which allowed me to continue my education and learning. I was grateful for that phenomenon, but it did not come without a caveat. Even though my facial tics were not very severe, I still developed a shyness and self-consciousness because of them. However, I was surrounded by a group of kind and accepting friends, which greatly alleviated my anxiety.

I was able to prosper throughout middle school with the support of my friends and family, but high school was a much different story. I am currently attending the Academy for Information Technology, a prestigious school dedicated to teaching students about the vast possibilities of business, information technology, and computer science. Unfortunately, I was the only student from my middle school who enrolled that year, so I was in a completely new environment. I was terrified at first, but I was able to overcome my fears and make new friends, just as friendly as the ones I had in middle school. The course work was much tougher than in middle school, but I was able to succeed in my academic endeavors. My facial tics were under control as well, so all was well in life.

My senior year of high school was a major turning point for me and my Tourette Syndrome. At the start of the year, I felt an immense weight on my shoulders because of all the new responsibilities I had to assume. With more demanding school work, the college application process, and my extracurricular activities, I felt swarmed with an enormous amount of pressure. And with the additional stress, the frequency of my facial tics skyrocketed. The first few weeks were probably the worst. During class and at home, I could barely keep my eyes open. Not because of a lack of sleep, but from incessant blinking, one of my most prominent facial tics. The warm summer weather only aggravated my symptoms. My self-consciousness also reemerged, as I was afraid people might start noticing my facial tics. I felt like I was hopeless, but I resolved to overcome this obstacle.

Senior year marked a new precedent for my Tourette Syndrome, but I gained a valuable trait from my facial tics as well. My tics were starting to impede my focus, so I knew I had to something or else my learning would suffer. One day after school, I went into deep contemplation and emerged with a strategy for alleviating my troubles. I realized my Tourette Syndrome was a medical condition, so I would not be able to just make it go away. Instead of trying to arduously suppress my facial tics, I decided to embrace my tics as a definitive part of me. Whenever I felt a sudden wave of facial tics about to occur, I would just let it wash over me and run its course. With this method of coping, I was able to maintain my focus and composure while doing my school work. It took some practice, but after a few weeks, I was back on track for success. My facial tics now seemed like involuntary actions, just like breathing or walking. With my new training, I acquired the virtue of patience, which has paid off time and again in school and life. I was confident in myself once again with inspired passion that I could overcome such an obstacle. Instead of seeing Tourette Syndrome as an adversary, I can now see it as a motivator to help me continually improve myself throughout life.

Miss Middlesex County Outstanding Teen and her family prove Strength in Beauty

The Garcias are this year's host family for the sixth annual NJ Walks for TS at Mendham. They invite walkers and runners to register at www.njcts.org.

The Garcias are this year’s host family for the sixth annual NJ Walks for TS at Mendham. They invite walkers and runners to register at www.njcts.org.

There’s nothing that the love of family can’t accomplish.

Together, the Garcia family of Rahway is working hard to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome and improve understanding of the complex disorder among healthcare providers and educators. They are the host family of this year’s NJ Walks for TS at Mendham, a 5K walk and fun run on November 14th.

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. TS affects as many as 1 in 100 people, or an estimated 20,000 school-age children in New Jersey today.

“Not many people know that TS is a syndrome that does not come alone, it encompasses other disorders and disabilities,” said Clarivel Garcia, mother of three girls, the youngest of which has TS.

For the Garcias, Tourette Syndrome advocacy is a family affair.

Sarah Garcia, the youngest of three girls, lives with TS. Her older sisters, Clarisavel and Leandra, along with their mom and dad, Jose, are each raising awareness in their own way. Earlier this year, Leandra won Miss Middlesex County Outstanding Teen 2015 for the Miss America organization.

Leandra Garcia is Miss Middlesex County Outstanding Teen 2016 and is using her platform to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome in honor of her younger sister Sarah.

Leandra Garcia is Miss Middlesex County Outstanding Teen 2016 and is using her platform to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome in honor of her younger sister Sarah.

“The [contestant] Queens are encouraged to be involved with the community and pick an organization close to their hearts,” said Clarivel. “She picked NJCTS for the past three years to spread awareness in honor of her little sister.”

The goal of her family’s participation in NJ Walks for TS at Mendham, according to Clarivel, is to “help the walk raise sufficient funds to continue to educate schools, teachers, students, and families in the community.”

“The public should attend NJ Walks for TS to help educate the community and provide support for the other diagnoses that may be involved,” said Clarivel. “Attending this event will give TS more positive exposure and, in the long run, help reach many areas of support needed by our families and communities.” Registration is available at www.njcts.org.

All proceeds from NJ Walks for TS benefit the Education Outreach Program of the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS). The outreach includes on-site training for doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, and students at schools and hospitals across the state; college workshops for educators-in-training; peer presentations to encourage acceptance and anti-bulling; and youth leadership training. NJ Walks for TS at Mendham began in 2010 and serves as the flagship event in North Jersey as the movement has grown to include NJ Walks in Central (Princeton) and South Jersey (Medford Lakes).

NJ Walks for TS is making it possible for NJCTS to provide the latest information to help professionals identify, diagnose and manage TS and its associated disorders.

“We have reached 82% more educators and students in the past year alone,” said NJCTS Executive Director Faith W. Rice. “This is a testament to the success of NJ Walks for TS, but we still have more professionals, children and families to reach.”

“You don’t have to have a personal connection to TS to help make life better for thousands of children and families across the state,” said Rice. “Join us for a fun day in Mendham or consider making a donation—all proceeds will go to work at school or hospital near you.”

The Garcia family is working to make this year’s event the biggest yet. To join them, or to contribute to the outreach work happening across the state, visit www.njcts.org.

NJ Walks for TS at Mendham is set for Saturday, Nov. 14th at Mendham Borough Park at the intersection of Mountain and Park Avenues. The event is rain or shine and check-in will begin at 8 a.m. For more information about the event, or to learn more about Tourette Syndrome, visit www.njcts.org.

2015 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Pushing Through”

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!

Meghan Ward photo

I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at seven. At the time, my brother was the one who had been diagnosed with Tourette, and he was having a difficult time coping with it. While we were following up with the doctor, my mother asked what my chances were of being diagnosed as well. The doctor said that, while I was sitting in my mother’s lap, “your daughter is ticcing right now”. Due the experience I had with my brother, I understood what was being said and did not have a bad reaction to being told I had Tourette. I, in turn, asked “if I was like Justin” and that I was happy Justin wasn’t alone. Dealing with my Tourette has been easier for me as I am on the more mild side of the spectrum.

In order to understand what my brother and I were dealing with, my family became more involved in the TS community. We were able to learn more about the disorder and about how it passes down genetically from the father. Being diagnosed with Tourette has brought closer together and we became more involved with the TS community. We would go to a camp that had other kids, just like us, who could learn more about each other and how TS had affected us differently. By going to this camp, it helped me realize that I wasn’t the only one who was different and that even celebrities could have disabilities and overcome the obstacles. The kids at the camp were taught to recognize our tics and became more aware of them in others.

Tourette has affected my school life both academically and socially. I’ve always had trouble concentrating in school. Knowing I have Tourette has helped me understand why I do the things I do and why I have difficulty staying still in my seat which made me focus on myself rather than the teachers. It has also made me more aware as well as defensive towards stereotypical remarks. I believe now that i am less likely to judge people by their mannerisms as I had been before.

A contribution my family was able to make to the TS community was being featured on a news program regarding Tourette Syndrome. By doing this news segment, we were able to help make people aware of the disorder, how it affects the child diagnosed, and the child’s family. This made me hopeful that people would be able to put a face to the syndrome.

Overall, being diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome has had positive and negative effects on my life. It has made me the person I am today; more aware of others disabilities and helping others who are in the same situation as I am. I have even volunteered on the First Aid Squad for my town. Tourette Syndrome is a part of my life and it makes me who I am.

2015 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “Defining Myself”

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

As I think about my journey in life so far there is a central theme of determination that truly has identified who I am. Around the third grade I became distracted just trying to manage what seemed like ridiculous and annoying random movements. These daily distractions interrupted my life as a child and so after many months of medical tests, I was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. The diagnosis gave me some answers and peace of mind yet I still struggled with many unanswered questions. I used to think that if I could just control the tics then I could get on with my life. However; it took medication and several types of therapy to help mask some of my tics. Sports were always a great distraction for me and became a stress releaser. I played just about any sport there was like travel soccer, baseball, lacrosse and eventually power lifting. While on the field I was free to be me and my opponents simply focused on the athlete in me and not necessarily the boy with Tourette’s. I have personally experienced the positive impact that sports can have on your confidence and sense of personal achievement. I have also witnessed the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment experienced through working as part of a team.

Furthermore, I have experienced roadblocks such as being asked to take study hall instead of wood shop and endured the brutality of bullying due to my condition. By the way, I took wood shop and earned an “A”. Fortunately, I have also always had the benefit of being part of a very close family which has motivated me to stand up for myself. They have continued to believe in me and encouraged me to be the best person that I can possibly be. I do not let difficulties stop me from succeeding, but accept the challenge to remain focused on my goals.

Staying focused on personal goals gives me purpose. I know that so much can be learned from sharing personal experiences with others. This gives us the insight to realize that even though we come from different backgrounds, origins or statuses that we all face many challenges. These challenges may not be obvious at first sight but they shape the people we have become. I know my perception of others has changed especially while working with special needs kids. Through the special needs soccer program I have experienced firsthand how a sense of accomplishment can brighten the face of a child. Each person has the ability to impact another person’s life and talents to share.

Finally, I think that having Tourette’s has made me even more determined to prove that I am so much more than a person with a condition. I am a person who sets goals and works tirelessly to reach those goals. I know that hard work and passion are what defines me. I will continue to follow my path to discover my destiny.