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Guest blogger:10-year-old Sam Kaplun for “Project Give Back”

When I first heard of it, all that I knew about it was that I might have it! Tourette Syndrome. What the tic was that, I thought. My mom told me that she was worried about the fact that I might have Tourette Syndrome. At first, I didn’t really take her seriously because she worries all the time.

The first time it happened, I was 7 years old. I was playing Monopoly with my mom. I randomly had the urge to start saying some made up words. I began to say some of these weird words. That was when it all started. I had these verbal tics for a few months and then over the course of the next few years, varying disruptive tics intruded on my life and they still do today.

Around the same time, I was participating in a school play and I asked my mom if I could drop out. This was because my tics were making me uncomfortable and I didn’t want people to notice them. My mom encouraged me to continue, as I had already committed to the play. In the end, I was glad my mom forced me to do it because I enjoyed the experience and my tics were temporarily nonexistent while I was performing.

Except for my closest friends, I didn’t tell very many people I had Tourette Syndrome, as I found it slightly embarrassing. Things stayed like that until fifth grade (last year) when my class was assigned Project Give Back. This is a project that many students in grades 4 and 5 all around Toronto participate in. We choose a charity to present on to the class, and we play a little game about what the charity does.

Having Tourette’s, I automatically chose the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada as the charity for my project. It just felt right. I explained what Tourette Syndrome was and how it can affect your life. For another part of the presentation, I told my classmates that I did indeed have Tourette’s.

The kids didn’t react badly at all. They just accepted it as if everything was normal. I didn’t feel embarrassed during my presentation, so it was then that I realized that I was starting to feel OK with telling people that I had Tourette Syndrome! No one is going to judge me just because I have this disorder.

My teachers and peers were very impressed with my presentation on the TFSC and Tourette Syndrome, and my teachers suggested that I show my presentation to other children to raise awareness about Tourette Syndrome. I thought this was a great idea, and I’m eager to present to other kids around the city.

Raising awareness is important so that people know about Tourette’s and how it can affect one’s life. It also shows people that I’m not weird. I feel completely normal even though I have Tourette’s. It was not until quite recently, however, that I actually stepped up and decided that I wanted to advocate for people with Tourette Syndrome.

I hope that those of you who read this are inspired by the fact that I came forward and chose to speak about the fact that I have Tourette’s. If you have Tourette’s, I hope that you feel OK about having it. There’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. We all have differences and it doesn’t matter. We are all people and we can still live happily together.

Sam Kaplun, age 10

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  1. Is Project Give Back strictly a Canadian thing? This seems like the kinda thing that would be great for schools in the U.S., too.

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