Bullying has been a hot topic in the media for the last few years and bullying in any form is a horrible and destructive action that unfortunately exists for a variety of reasons in many young people’s lives today. When children and adolescents with medical conditions become the target of bullying, it is especially painful. Understanding the disease and learning how to best handle negative reactions may well be the key to helping children with conditions such as Tourette syndrome live a happy and stress-free life.
Tourette syndrome is a heredity, childhood-onset, neurodevelopmental condition that causes sufferers to make sudden, uncontrollable movements and/ or sounds called tics. Tics can vary by person from mild to severe and include things like head bobbing, arm jerking, shoulder shrugging and grunting. In same cases the tics can be severely debilitating. And Tourette’s is a fairly common affliction. In fact, in the US today, it is estimated that nearly 1 in every 100 people have Tourette’s or another form of a tic disorder. Largely misunderstood, many Tourette’s sufferers are ridiculed or questioned in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Stress only serves to worsen the tics, even leading to post-traumatic stress disorder in some extreme cases. But there is hope for those suffering from Tourette’s and other similar conditions as awareness expands and patients find healthy ways to understand their condition and alleviate symptoms.
When one eight-grader in San Mateo, CA started to experience the blinking, head bobs and others tics, he was overwhelmed by shame and denial. Eventually diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, Michael Chichioco was faced with learning about his condition and the best way to respond to his peers when asked about his tics. Once shamed by the tics, Michael channeled his experience into making a positive out of a negative. Today he is a youth ambassador for the national Tourette Syndrome Association, working to remove the stigma associated with the condition and improve awareness.
And Michael’s story is just one shining light when it comes to positive ways to deal with the tics associated with this condition. For patients who need support, it is important to be surrounded by others who can truly understand what they are feeling. Connecting with support groups and other patients with the same affliction is one way to reach out and help to reduce the stigma. Patients should speak openly whenever possible about the symptoms and how they are feeling. Perhaps the most important factor of all for these patients is the elimination of self-stigma, Setting personal goals, making decisions for themselves and determining the best care options are all integral to living positive and happy life.
For more information on Tourette syndrome including resources from the National Tourette Syndrome Association, please click here.