Sometimes, life’s challenges come at you hard and fast. Other times, they creep up on you when you’re not even looking. I’m not sure in what fashion Tourette Syndrome came into my life. It seems like it might have been both ways.
“Why is he always yelling?” I asked my sister one day as our sons – only weeks apart in age – played together in my living room. “Why can’t he play quietly like your son does?” At the time, my son was only 3 years old, but already I was beginning to notice that he was a little different than other kids his age.
There weren’t any “red flag” signs that would indicate a serious problem, only subtle, less intrusive signals that suggested something was not quite right. For instance, he wouldn’t walk on sand or grass. He had difficulty with his speech. He seemed to lack an awareness of his body and had a hard time doing things like jumping or going up steps.
And he yelled. A lot. If you ask my family members, they’ll probably forget that he yelled so much, but I can never forget, because it was the yelling that changed things for me. It was the yelling that led me to the realization that my son had Tourette.
One night, after a particularly long day with my son, I sat down at the computer looking for answers. I wanted to know why my son was having the problems he was having, and I wanted a name for his problems. In retrospect, looking up Tourette should have been a logical first step given the yelling, but it wasn’t.
I surfed the internet for hours that night, typing in different search terms until I happened upon a video presentation by Dr. John T. Walkup. As Dr. Walkup talked, my life change — I finally had a name for what was happening to (in?) my beautiful little boy.
I felt a lot of sadness when I realized that my son had TS, but I also felt relieved. For the first time, I was able to make sense of all of the difficulties my son was having. I was able to get rid of the guilt and blame that had plagued me as a parent and direct my energies toward something useful: getting my son the help he needed.
So that’s the way TS came into my life. Although there had been signs for some time, it wasn’t until I watched that video that I knew what was happening to my son. It was a freeing moment for me. Of course, it didn’t change the circumstances, but it changed my perspective. I am thankful to have had that moment, even though it marked the beginning of a difficult journey for my family.