For students with Tourette syndrome, fitting in at university is anything but easy. In addition to the usual anxieties that university brings, students with Tourette’s must also contend with motor and vocal "tics," such as coughs, twitches, and word phrases. The stereotype that people with Tourette’s compulsively swear, also known as coprolalia, affects less than 10% of sufferers. Instead, the symptoms of Tourette’s encompass a spectrum of tics that can range from squeaking and arm flailing to nose twitching and beyond.
Diagnosed with Tourette’s at a young age, this student learned early on that their mother was their biggest advocate, ensuring that they were not discriminated against by their teachers or peers. However, the transition to university proved to be a new challenge. Worries about the embarrassment of tics in class, the need to explain their condition, and not distracting others during lectures proved stressful. A visit to the university’s disability office offered little comfort as getting lecturers to understand Tourette’s symptoms remained a daunting task. Consequently, the student often resorted to sitting at the back of the lecture hall, trying not to draw attention to themselves.
Outside of class, internships presented a whole new challenge as Tourette’s tics made it difficult to integrate with new people. The student’s unintentional eye rolling tic caused co-workers to believe they were careless and uninterested in their work, which led to misunderstandings and mistakes.
As the student has grown older, they have found fewer people who can relate to them and act as role models. Although social media and YouTube stars like Caspar Lee have helped to show that a diagnosis of Tourette’s does not have to hold someone back, the student wishes they could find other successful, non-famous people with whom they could identify and learn from.
The student explains: "When they leave the room, they leave my tics behind, but I bring them everywhere with me." Tourette’s will always be a part of their life and the reality of living with Tourette’s needs to be understood. The goal is to educate people about the condition and help carve out a path for normal people struggling with Tourette’s.