Adam Turton – Inclusion and living with Tourette’s
From my first days at school I knew I was very different to most other people, physically I look like a human being and speak like one… but what was within me didn’t fit with the unspoken “norm”. The major difference between me and most other people is that I have Tourette’s syndrome; and this fact of my life has caused me a lot of grief. For example, because I didn’t find the same things entertaining as other kids, it seemed like I was judging them by not joining in. And because I didn’t understand social cues as well as I do now, I came across as being confrontational and odd. Despite these differences, which were clear to me, I just couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t set aside the differences and accept me for who I am. Whatever the reason, my peers made me feel like a complete social pariah and my schools, (at this stage of my life I lived in the USA), conspired to leave me feeling the same way. When I was bullied for being different, school officials would say things like, ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘try to fit in better’.
When I first moved to Cambridge from the USA, I assumed that the story would be the same… how wrong I was! People at the Cambridge International School couldn’t have been more understanding and appreciating of my weirdness and strange ways. It was and remains part of the school’s ethos to foster an inclusive environment in which everyone is accepted, respected and valued. Their approach was not always successful and at times I had some difficult times, but on the whole I felt it was the best school I’d been to and for the first time I thrived in education, doing well in my IGCSE examinations and even being voted Head Boy!
I am now a cornerstone of my 6th form; I have great friends and I have been involved in many different public events which would not have been possible for me earlier in my life. I have played piano at public venues, (sometimes in front of VERY large audiences); I have won debate competitions and have even taken part in a mock trial.
Despite the life challenges that my Tourette’s has given me, I have never viewed it as a curse, in fact I have come to consider it as more of a gift; it has granted me a very important insight – being the same as everyone else is not something to aspire to. Instead, being all that you can be is what matters and it is never worth compromising who you are just to appease those who make fun of you. Finally, I just wanted to say to those who struggle to be included, don’t give up; there is a light at the end of this arduous tunnel and no matter how long it takes to get there, the reward is always worth it and there are so many valuable lessons in life to be learned along the way.
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