By Zachary S. Wiersma | Science
Snap, cluck, snap! The noises rang out in the conference hall. Several people turned toward me to see what was causing the disturbance. As I walked down the aisle to join my graduate school lab mate, I jerked my head to the left and snapped my fingers in my right ear, continuing to draw attention to myself. But when the presentation began, I forgot about how others might see me. I focused solely on the science, even though I clucked my tongue, tightened my right calf, and thrust out my right arm throughout the presentation. None of it was intentional: I suffer from Tourette syndrome (TS), a neurological condition that compels me to perform involuntary repetitive movements and vocalizations known as tics. And I wasn’t embarrassed. In fact, after some years of struggling with the potential negative impact of my TS, I now consider it to be an asset.
“We can all allow our disabilities to be sources of strength.”
When I was a child, my tics did not cause any serious problems. But as I got older and thought about my future career and how professional colleagues would perceive me, I worried my TS might impede my dreams. By the time I began college, I was acutely self-conscious about my disorder and worried that it might distract teachers and fellow students or deter them from interacting with me.
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Thanks to Zachary S. Wiersma for sharing his story; Science for committing its resources to publishing the story; Google for helping me find the story; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture, text, and links in this post.