Tourette Syndrome Association of New Jersey Honors Educator of the Year

SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Board of Directors of Tourette Syndrome Association of New Jersey, Inc., (TSANJ) has announced that Ms. Michele Hawkes, a Para-Professional from Brick Township High School, has been selected as the 2007 TSANJ Educator of the Year. The award was presented to Ms. Hawkes by New Jersey’s Assistant Commissioner of Education, Barbara Gantwert and TSANJ Board Member Larry Scot.


The award is presented annually to an educator in New Jersey who has made a significant contribution to the well-being of an individual with Tourette Syndrome. The nomination is made by the family or individual who has received the special support. The honor is given to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts toward the betterment of an individual’s life and to advocate for individuals with Tourette Syndrome by furthering the awareness of TS.


Ms. Hawkes was nominated by Eileen and Dennis D’Andrea, whose son, a high school sophomore, was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was four years old. “Michele has always displayed a sensitivity and commitment towards Mickey that goes above and beyond her job description. She not only assists him in his day-to-day school functions, but offers continuous encouragement, support and guidance. She is a strong advocate for our son, and has been an integral part of his success.”


Added Mr. D’Andrea, “Michele has always been there for Mickey. We were lucky to have found such a dedicated and caring individual to help our son.”


“I am honored to have received this year’s award and am happy that I can be there for Mickey to help him with his daily challenges,” remarked Ms. Hawkes upon receiving her award.


This year’s award was presented during TSANJ’s Fifth Annual Recognition Dinner held Wednesday, May 16, at Rutgers University. The event also honored Senator Richard Codey and Mrs. Mary Jo Codey for their humanitarian interest and support of New Jersey’s Tourette Syndrome community and all persons dealing with mental health issues. At the same dinner, TSANJ also announced the winners of its 2007 scholarship awards, the only scholarship award in the nation for TS students.


The annual Educator of the Year Award is funded through the generosity of TSANJ supporters. Individuals interested in supporting the award should forward their contribution to Tourette Syndrome Association of New Jersey, Inc., 50 Division Street, Suite 205, Somerville, NJ 08876. Checks should note that the contribution is to be made to the Educator of the Year fund.


Tourette Syndrome (TS) is an inherited neurological disorder that is manifested in involuntary physical and vocal tics. Symptoms generally appear in children at ages 6-7 years, but can manifest anytime before an individual is 18 years old. TS affects people of all ethnic groups with males affected 3 to 4 times more frequently than females. It is estimated that 200,000 Americans have full blown TS and that as many as 1 in 200 show a partial expression of the disorder. Commonly, people with Tourette syndrome also have co-occurring disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Depression.


There is no cure for TS.


Tics can range from severe verbal and physical contortions to milder tics that are barely recognizable. Sadly, Tourette’s is sometimes represented by Hollywood as sudden outbursts of profanity, but in truth, that characteristic actually afflicts only about 5 percent of those identified as having the disorder. Perhaps because of this, TS sufferers are highly stigmatized, with those afflicted being shunned, misunderstood and left feeling ashamed. A horrible tragedy – since TS typically strikes individuals at the tender age of seven.


The mission of TSANJ is to support the needs of families affected by TS, to advocate for individuals with TS, and to educate the public and professionals on TS. Through TSANJ and NJCTS, New Jersey families can receive: school and peer in-service, intervention, family support programs, family education and advocacy, helpline, medical diagnosis and treatment referrals, psychological services, education and training for doctors, nurses, medical sciences students and educators.


New research programs, such as a stigma and biofeedback program and the TS Cell and DNA Sharing program are also part of NJCTS’ offering.


TSANJ relies completely on membership, corporations, government, and foundations to fund its work.