Cresskill students get lessons about Tourette Syndrome from NJCTS Youth Advocates

NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome’s (NJCTS) Youth Advocates inspired, educated and spread awareness about Tourette Syndrome to a total of 1800 Cresskill, N.J., students from May 11 through May 15, as part of a weeklong TS awareness campaign in the district.

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. It is estimated that 1 in 100 children show signs of the disorder—as many as 20,000 school aged kids in New Jersey alone. TS is frequently accompanied by ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and learning disabilities. Kids with TS are at increased risk for bullying and report feelings of isolation due to their condition. NJCTS Youth Advocates share their experiences with TS and spread messages of encouragement, acceptance, and self-advocacy.

Drew Friedrich spoke about TS to over 600 high school and 400 middle school students on May 11. Drew is 22 years old, a recent graduate of County College of Morris, has been a Youth Advocate since 2012, and was a coach at the first annual Tim Howard Leadership Academy last August.

Drew did an amazing job connecting with the students and was comfortable in his skin, TS and all. He showed students that anything is possible and being different can be empowering. The students asked wonderful questions and started great discussion.

Cameron Mehlman presented to 400 elementary school students at Merritt Memorial Elementary on May 14. The students paid close attention to Cameron’s stories and asked great questions. Cameron — who is 15 years old, an avid golfer and a volunteer NJCTS Youth Advocate since the fall of 2014 — worked together with me to bring an informative and interactive presentation to the students.

Mike Hayden presented to 400 elementary school students at Bryan Elementary School on May 15, Tourette’s Awareness Day. Mike is 16 years old, a member of his high school track and field team, has been a Youth Advocate since August 2013, and participated in the first annual Tim Howard Leadership Academy last year. He has presented to medical professionals about his journey with TS and enjoys speaking to kids.

Together, NJCTS Youth Advocates educated more than 1800 students and faculty in Cresskill alone about TS. Each presentation had a strong anti-bullying message and the Youth Advocates explain the myths and stereotypes that are often attributed to TS.

Parents of teens or pre-teens with TS who wish to get involved in the NJCTS Youth Advocate Program, please call me at 908-575-7350 or e-mail me at gjones@njcts.org. For more information about NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome, visit www.njcts.org.

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