Teen years are tough

Being a teenager is hard enough, factor in the early 80s and not much info on the subject of Tourette — and the snarky way the media has depicted TS — and growing up was a huge recipe for disaster.

I had finally made it home, and I was once alone again. I had no friends because my family had moved while I was in the hospital, and I had no school. Nothing was familiar to me anymore. I had lived in a hospital environment and wasn’t use to my own family anymore. I was changing in so many ways as a teen, and I had Touretts. I was a square peg in a round world.

I didn’t fit in anywhere. I had missed 2 1/2 years of school, and technically I should have been going into 7th grade. As soon as the school system heard I had TS, I was automatically branded “special needs” and was under chapter 766, which basically put me in a classroom with children that had severe disabilities.

I fought this. I went head to head several times, challenging the head of the special needs department. I wanted to know how I was “normal” and then not. I was still exactly the same. The only difference was that my body would do its own thing at times, but my mind was fine.

The reason I couldn’t keep up was because I missed 2 1/2 years of school, not because of the Tourette. I went from getting through half of the fourth grade and entirely missing fifth and sixth grade. I am stubborn, so I made them send me to the nearest junior high.

When I was at the day school, instead of just putting me in a mixed class, I wish the school would have looked over my records and had given me age-appropriate work. The mistakes that other people made have hindered me, and I can never change this.

Junior high was a nightmare! The first few weeks, kids made their cliqués. I was actually with the popular crowd, until one day — feeling comfortable and confident that my new friends loved and accepted me — I made the mistake of telling one person my “problem” … banished, poof. That was it, I was done. It went from bad to worse.

I remember going into my math class, and the teacher wasn’t there yet but all the kids were. They all lit into me. I remember putting my head down on the table and crying, and you know what? They continued. Then there was a gym teacher that I caught making fun of me, mimicking my facial tics. We had a meeting, and of course she denied it, but I know what I saw.

Oddly enough, I am glad that all this happened. It made me strong. I have compassion. I can honestly say I see people very differently than most, because upon meeting anyone, I see them — not the visual side of a person, but the inner person.

I am who I am because of my experiences. I am glad I didn’t end up like most of the people that I briefly went to school with — superficial, mean and cruel. Most of them have apologized, as I have called them on it, when the occasions have come up.

I learned at a very young age how cruel a place the world can be, regardless of age or sex. I also feel like I owe these individuals a thank you, because they showed me what I would never want to be  — like one of them.

At the time, chapter 766 stated all children should remain in school until the age of 21 . I had been bounced around from all sorts of programs and had done the coursework.. Of course, I fought that, too, and in the end, I did get my diploma after battling the head of the special needs department. It is the same one that everyone else got. Class of 1988.

I didn’t know it for many years, but when I did need my transcripts for something, I was told that there was no record of me at all. Once again, the school system had just pushed me through, and let me down.


  1. I can also identify with this. Our boy, bless his heart, has been very difficult as a teen. Both he and we have had to remmeber that it’s not his fault. He can’t control this. There are times, though, when both he and we wanna ring this thing’s puny little thing’s neck! And I mean TS, not my boy! HA!

  2. Wow, so much to comment on today. I shoudl check this site more often. Our son has just entered his teenage years, and we can definitely identidfy with this.Donna, do you have a teenager as well? Or is this just your story?

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