What Drives Me – Gavin J.

Gavin was a winner of a 2021 NJCTS Scholarship Award. 

This was the essay he included with his application.

I’ve faced many obstacles for something I had no control in doing. I expected my peers to not understand, but I expected better from adults. My earliest memory was 2nd grade, my teacher refused to distribute the Spider-Man cupcakes for my birthday, she said my throat cleaning had disrupted her class and she was angry at me. I remember the tears rolling down my Mothers face when I got off the school bus, cupcakes in hand. 5th grade my teachers pulled me out of class to tell me I had nothing wrong with me, it was attention seeking and I would amount to nothing. 8th grade my teacher mimicked and mocked me in front of the whole class, I sat there and couldn’t believe what was happening. I wish these were the only obstacles I faced, but it’s only a glimpse of what it is like to live with Tourette Syndrome.

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurologic disorder that causes repetitive movements and unwanted sounds that are difficult to control. I have lived with TS since the age of 5.

I continually have to prove myself, show everyone that I’m not different. It’s never expected that I will be an exceptional student or excel at sports, just because of my TS. Not often do I encounter a peer, teacher or coach that doesn’t look at me differently, like I may not belong because of my TS.

Middle school is when things got worse. Kids started noticing the blinking, throat clearing, shoulder shrugging, along with so many other tics to mention. I wish I can say it was easy to live with TS as a pre teen, but that would be an enormous lie. I mostly ignored the stares, laughs and ridicule from others, but it still hurt. It’s not easy having a disability that can be embarrassing, socially isolating and even painful from repetitive movements. Although, I never personally considered myself to have a disability because there has been nothing I haven’t been able to accomplish.

The end of 6th grade, I started attending a weekly academic forum through Rutgers University for children with TS. It was there I learned about TS and how to advocate for myself. I was taught techniques through cognitive behavioral therapy how to reduce tic activity. I learned to hyper focus on things and started having better control of my TS. I began incorporating what I was being taught into my studies and sports, that’s when I started to excel at everything I did. During middle school, it was through lacrosse and football that I found the confidence I was lacking.

I haven’t faced any difficulty or exclusion throughout high school. The more transparent I am the less people seem to judge me. Living with TS has not been easy, but has made me a mentally strong person. I face challenges differently than my peers which gives me an advantage. I won’t allow TS to control my life, I have been fighting this battle for so long there aren’t many things that can stand in my way.

I’m thankful for my family, they never allowed my diagnosis to define me. They gave me the tools and resources to become a fighter. I will continue to live by my favorite saying… NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE ABILITY OF SOMEONE WITH A DISABILITY.



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