By Paige Kowalski, NJCTS Youth Advocate
When the world went into lockdown in March of 2020, I was scared for my education like so many other students. I knew that the differences of the new world we lived in was undoing so much progress that had been made for in person accommodations in an academic environment. Although I had been homeschooled at that time, my in person classes at the local community college went online suddenly, leaving me to fend for myself.
My TS in school had been dealt with very well and I was shown true care for who I was as a student and person all while considering my diagnosis. When zoom and online learning took off, it was impossible for me to communicate effectively with my teachers to tell them if I was struggling or ticcing or needed a break. It felt like there was no hope for my learning and educational journey after COVID.
Like so many other people with TS, school was a rocky road. Having to do it all myself without direct help was an upsetting turn of events. Those with TS were left to fend for themselves and to feel so alone after having assistance and kind people by my side for so long was a difficult transition.
What I wound up doing was unique, and not doing 8 hours a day on zoom was something I was incredibly thankful for, but even the few hours I spent in online classes per day were a struggle. I spent the time suppressing tics and feeling great discomfort as I was forced to keep my camera on for the duration of the meetings. I can only imagine that those who struggled through 2 years or more of online school faced challenges with accommodations, extensions, attention, and even their mental health. Being left in the dark especially in such an important environment gives great difficulties for those who worked so hard to raise awareness for TS in education.
Although there were many times we were set back in schools due to the pandemic, it also gave a lot of room to grow and give support to students like me who struggled with their TS in school. Starting to advocate over zoom and watching seminars that gave teachers tips and tricks to help their students helped me as well; I learned to adapt and support myself like I’ve had to so many times, but the help that was given to me along the way was unbeatable. Working with the NJCTS and seeing the resources that they provided helped me to sustain myself in an educational environment was a benefit and helped me to really fend for myself.