NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders (NJCTS) Youth Advocate AnnaClaire Sems, 15, of Bernardsville has taken the opportunity to join an Olympic training program with Oakcliff Sailing, located in Oyster Bay, New York.
AnnaClaire was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 10. Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by uncontrollable movements known as tics. As many as 1 in 100 people show signs of TS or other tic disorder which is frequently accompanied by mental health disorders including ADHD, OCD, and anxiety. AnnaClaire has been a Youth Advocate with NJCTS for several years, presenting at New Jersey schools to educate her peers about TS and what it means to live with this commonly misunderstood neurological disorder.
“TS will always be a part of me, but never all of me,” AnnaClaire states during her presentation.
In September of 2020, AnnaClaire decided it was time for a new adventure. She had applied and was accepted to the Oakcliff Sailing program, the top training program for sailing in the United States. They train both youth and adults to participate in the three big sailing competitions, including the Olympics. AnnaClaire lives there full time and has a busy schedule of schoolwork and sailing.
“I was nervous at first how I was going to handle my tics in a new situation, especially living with roommates,” AnnaClaire says about her TS and the sailing program. “Amazingly, my tics lessoned because of the physical activity I was doing every day. They are much more manageable now.”
This upcoming semester, AnnaClaire and her colleagues are traveling to Dauphin Island, Alabama, to live and begin training on 49ers and Nacra sailboats. She looks forward to her first offshore race in the summer of 2021.
“We are always so proud of our youth advocates and the amazing things that they set out to do against all odds,” says Patricia Phillips, Executive Director of NJCTS. “Tourette Syndrome should not hold you back from your dreams.”