By Shawn Jackson
Earlier this morning, I was honored and humbled to have been invited to go to a local area school for the deaf to attend a presentation for a deaf student who also has Tourette Syndrome. I was actually invited earlier this week to come and, though I could have easily said “no”, given how early in the morning I had to leave to get there, I agreed and made plans to attend.
I had met this young man earlier this year through a friend of a friend who is a teacher at the school. She had spoken to my friend, Lisa, about one of her students who has Tourette Syndrome and, the next thing I knew, I had an appointment to meet him. Our initial meeting mainly covered listening to him speak on having Tourette’s and living with it as a teen in High School. I asked questions and gave my own testimony about living with it.
Later on after the meeting had been long over, I was told I had made an impression on him and that he felt better for having met another person with Tourette’s. Speaking from my own life, it has been rare for me to meet someone with it, let alone hear about someone within close proximity to me who has it. I felt good knowing I had made an impact on someone’s life who knows at least some of my struggle in accepting it and educating others.
I thought that would be it until I had gotten the invitation earlier this week to attend his presentation about Tourette’s. Once I arrived, the presentation hadn’t yet commenced but I waited patiently. Once the presentation started, he was a bit apprehensive about having all eyes on him to speak. But as it went on, he gained more and more confidence in speaking to his peers as they appeared genuinely curious and engaged. I was so proud to see this young man come out of his shell and grow 7 feet tall before my eyes.
Taken by surprise, I was asked to come up near the end of the presentation to talk about myself and my Tourette’s. I introduced myself, gave a short history of my diagnosis and then delved into the meat and potatoes of my experience; namely embarrassment and fear. Almost anyone who has Tourette’s will tell you that that fear manifests in multiple ways. From worrying if you’ll make friends or keep the ones you have now to people looking at you differently to not getting a date with the cutie 2 desks over or if you’ll have another episode again today. I think I made my points clear to everyone.
Afterward, I spoke with the teachers and then with the young man whom invited me. We talked a bit more about being in High School and having Tourette’s and how many don’t or won’t understand what Tourette’s is and how it affects us, especially those who have co-morbid disorders.
I rushed towards school in a way I haven’t done in decades, but having seen him there and the way he engaged the students, I feel like I made a bit of a difference. I’m glad to have been a blessing to someone today.