2016 NJCTS Youth Scholarship Award Essay: “How I Changed My Life”

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!

KyleO

KyleO

At the age of five I was diagnosed with Tourettes. This is and will forever be the biggest struggle in my life. Not only has it affected me physically, it has also affected my social life and school experience. For me I have to go through the same pain everyday and try to find ways to overcome and look towards the future. Only recently have I taken this mindset and it has improved my daily life tremendously. Through the process of finding a way to cope with my disorder I have found many activities and interests that I never thought I could enjoy. I started communicating with people and managed to find hobbies that I genuinely enjoyed. Although my life so far has been a rough road it has led me to some amazing things I never imagined I could find.

I have always been secretly fascinated about why I tic and what triggers it. I have done research and have found many interesting things. My curiosity stemmed ever since I went to a Tourette Clinic when I was young and found out more about my condition. My personal dream is to be able to help people who have the same problems as I do which is why I want to study psychology or neurology. Becoming someone who could help others through their pain and relate to them is something that I believe can be very therapeutic for both parties. I have met others who have Tourettes and it was an amazing experience not only for me but for the people I met as well. The feeling of communicating with someone who feels the same as I do is an amazing feeling that I would gladly enjoy experiencing for the rest of my life.

Not only have I found myself in this journey but I have also found others. Social anxiety and fear have always held me back from communicating with people and drastically affected my grades and school life. One of the biggest factors that led me to combat this issue was the youth group that I am involved with at my local church. I’ve grown from a socially awkward child to a truly open and outward adult because of the people and experiences that I’ve come across. My youth group has become one of my favorite things in life because I know that I have people who want to accept me for who I am. Throughout the years of being in the program I have become a leader among my peers and have begun helping with many activities and plans that the church holds. Because of my involvement in the church I have started convincing myself to talk to new people and be accepting and confident of myself. By instituting this personal rule I have began to notice a steady improvement in my grades, social life, and the quality of life overall.

My personal skills and talents have also helped me further myself in many ways. This past year I built a computer from scratch. Building and modifying computers has always been one of my hobbies and could even lead to studying computer science. Ever since I was a child electronics have fascinated me and have led me to many things such as my passion for graphic design. Not only are these activities enjoyable but they are extremely therapeutic. I really hope that I can share these experiences with others so that they can look for a brighter future as well. By using my skills and talents to overcome my condition I have shown remarkable improvements in my life and my ability to make a plan for my future.

2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “I Can Accomplish Anything”

This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2014 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

“l’ve been from the bottom of the deepest and darkest  abyss, to the top of the highest and brightest mountain” (from the book “Against Medical Advice” by fames Patterson and Hal Freidman). This quote is a great description of what it has been like living with Tourette Syndrome for most of my life.

Since my diagnosis at the  age of 3, my TS has caused me much trouble, stress, and difficulty, TS has caused me to be bullied, to get in trouble at school, and to have an almost impossible time focusing.  Good behavior? Sitting still? Forget it!  TS didn’t allow me to have it.

Tourette Syndrome changed my life by teaching me how to persevere and overcome very painful (almost torturous) life obstacles. My tics were very disruptive and painful for most of my childhood and early teens. For example, I would bite my thumb, my neck would twitch constantly, and I would scream in the middle of  class. My muscles would become exhausted, would  ache, and would  cause me continuous physical pain.

My sleep was impacted due to the muscle pain, tics, and exhaustion. I would lay awake at night crying because  I couldn’t sleep or was in pain. When I began taking medication as a young child, I had negative side effects such  as extreme drowsiness, weight gain, increased appetite, and loss of memory.  I also struggled with OCD, which played a big role in making the TS worse because I would feel the need to continue certain tics after the initial tic urge went away.

Along with the physical pain, TS hurt my social life.

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Fantastic Friends: A great social opportunity for NJ teens with special needs

Hello! My name is Marissa Hacker and I am the National Child Awareness Month (NCAM) New Jersey Youth Ambassador and also the founder of a nonprofit organization called Fantastic Friends.

This year for my Ambassadorship project, I am on a mission to travel to different inclusive social programs in New Jersey and help spread awareness about the need for these programs. I started a campaign called NJF.R.I.E.N.D. (New Jersey Facilitating Resource Improvement Empowering New Development), to help connect people with disabilities and special needs to these inclusive social programs.

Fantastic Friends is an inclusive social group for tweens, teens, and young adults with special needs. Every month Fantastic Friends holds a themed social function in a South Jersey location.

I have some members in my organization that have Tourette Syndrome, and I would like to connect with more people who have Tourette Syndrome. I would also like to help spread more awareness for Tourette Syndrome, while also blogging about Fantastic Friends events that are always open to new friends and volunteer friends.

Being a sibling of a brother who has Autism, I know the struggles that come along with having a disability. I see that the biggest problem that people with disabilities face is social isolation. I am looking forward to your feedback! Thank you very much!

2013 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “Tourette – A Sudden Struggle”

This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2013 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it! And here is my profile on the NJCTS website.

OHearn, Robert JrTourette has had a substantial effect on my life, even though my tics are considered relatively mild and could be much worse. Although I was born extremely premature and had several medical complications during my childhood — including ADD and vision problems — Tourette was not something I was anticipating, nor prepared to handle.

Strangely, without explanation, my tics suddenly started around age 16 during my sophomore year of high school. My tics consisted of throat clearing, eye blinking and other fidgeting of my hands and other body parts. My tics only happen when I try to speak, lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes at their worst.

None of my family, friends or teachers could understand why I, a student who had always participated in class and communicated without any difficulty, suddenly could not speak or have a simple everyday conversation. I could not explain what was happening to me.

There is no pattern to my tics — they can happen when I am initiating the conversation or when I am answering a question, whether it is a telephone conversation or an in-person conversation, whether it is a stressful situation or a calm discussion.

It can be as simple as my mom asking me what I had for lunch at school that day. The tics and delays in speech are awkward and stressful. This had suddenly become a major problem for me. Continue reading