2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “I’m Not a Diagnosis”

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!

I always want to be seen as the person I am, not as a diagnosis. I have very high functioning Autism and need social support and academic accommodations. I am creative, musical, artistic and have a great sense of humor. I also have ADHD and Tourette Syndrome.

I have been to some clinics for Tourette Syndrome, such as a clinic at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. That’s right, I had to fly from New Jersey to Atlanta, then hop on another flight to Alabama. The people at the clinic were so sweet and polite. They even offered me tickets to a football game at the school’s stadium as a result of telling them that I am in the marching band.

Having Tourette Syndrome is a challenge I have to deal with in life, and although I live with that challenge every day, I have acquired tools that help me cope.

My life has never been what one would call “easy.” Three months after I turned 8, my parents sent me to a residential school to help “at-risk” youth. My time there was spent teaching me how to deal with the frustration that my disabilities give me. I needed to learn how to calmly communicate without being overly emotional.

This was quite a challenge because I was only eight, The School was called The Andrus Children’s Center. Being apart from my parents was a very difficult experience, They came on weekends and eventually took me home on weekends so I could practice the skills I had learned.

I grew a lot as an individual at Andrus.

The school was full of different students with different backgrounds with different goals to achieve. Other residents had some of the same interests as I did, but a lot of my interests where uncommon there.

I loved trading cards. The thing about trading cards at Andrus was that there was a no lending or borrowing policy, I could understand that rule a little better than the others because of the fact that if you loaned a card to somebody and they refused to return it, it could cause a fistfight.

I can tell you one thing, fistfights weren’t my thing. I was a wimp. Actually I kind of am, but I like that about myself because I know I won’t do anything unsafe or “stupid”. The last thing I wanted was a broken nose. Some of the boys in my dorm had a problem with their temper. That was not my problem. I would become upset when unexpected events occurred, I have become much more flexible, but I am still working on this.

Eventually, I made so much progress at Andrus that I became a day student and no longer lived there, After a year of commuting, I went to another special day school for high functioning kids on the spectrum, The Summit School. Then, I was mainstreamed into Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School, where I am now a high school senior.

I have been on the honor roll multiple times in the last few years and the high honor roll once, I am currently in the marching band and have joined multiple musical ensembles within the high school community, including the drum line, concert band and jazz ensemble. I was also selected into a chapter of The National Art Honor Society.

I have made many close friends with other students who have similar musical interests and talents. In high school, I have discovered a passion for music and that music helps me relax and de-stress.

Now, it has been four years since I was discharged from Andrus, and I am in a top rated public high school succeeding in academics and musical achievements. I am still the same exact person I was nine years ago, just a more mature teenager who has had to overcome more than your average 17-year-old boy.

This experience of living away from home for five years was absolutely the hardest experience I had ever encountered in my young life, but it was definitely worth it. I now have a better understanding of who I truly am, I am one lucky young man. I had my parents by my side who loved and cared about me enough to get me the right kind of help I needed when I needed it, and that helped shape my childhood.

Although I live with Tourette Syndrome, I enjoy living the life I have.



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