May 7 to 13 is Tourette’s syndrome awareness week. What is Tourette’s? Luca, 11, wants everyone to understand it a little better.
YOU might have heard someone say: “There’s a one-in-100 chance of that happening!” Well, with Tourette’s syndrome, that really is the case.
On average one in every 100 people has Tourette’s. But one in 100 isn’t as small as it seems. There might be someone with Tourette’s in your school, your scouts club or your favourite football team.
All over the world
More than 75 million people worldwide are born with Tourette’s. My brother Mani is one of them.
If you see Mani walking down the street, you might notice him bending back his head, or falling to his knees. You might hear him shout “Ah” or hoot like an owl. If you are really close, you might notice him blinking rapidly.
He doesn’t choose to do these things. He has to. These actions and noises are called tics, and he can’t control when or where he does them. Some can keep him up for hours at night. Sometimes he has tics where he has to hurt himself, like pinching his skin, or pulling the hairs on his legs.
But despite all this, Mani wouldn’t want a cure if they had one. “It feels special … It’s who I am,” he says.
Everyone tics differently
Tourette’s syndrome is a spectrum, meaning different people have different types of tics, in different amounts. For example, coprolalia is where you have to say swear words without wanting to.
Motor tics are essentially “action tics”, like clapping or nodding your head. More extreme motor tics include having to lie down on the footpath, or in the middle of a shopping centre.
Then there are vocal tics, such as having to say “Ah” or “Ho”.
Not everyone with Tourette’s will have every type of tic. In fact very few do. Just like you might talk differently from your friend, people with Tourette’s tic differently too.
The genius tic
Evidence has shown that Tourette’s syndrome has a bright side.
Researchers discovered that Tourette’s syndrome can help certain parts of the brain excel. The musical genius Mozart had Tourette’s, and research hints that this helped his musical compositions.
Star soccer players, musicians and authors have all had Tourette’s syndrome, and may very well not have got where they are without Tourette’s.
So if you ever wanted to know what made Mozart’s genius mind tic, now you may well know.
Life keeps ticing on
Mani may have Tourette’s but that doesn’t stop him from doing whatever he likes. He can dance, run, jump, draw, kick a ball and play. In fact, Mani is just like you or me, with an extra little something on top.
I asked him what it feels like to have Tourette’s. He wrote this poem, because poems are often the best ways to show how you feel.
Journey of a Tic
A seedling buried in my feet
A vine growing inside me
Everything makes way for the tic
Flying on its journey out of my body.