Choctaw teen named TAA Youth Ambassador
A 17-year-old from Choctaw is on a mission to spread awareness about Tourette Syndrome and related tic disorders.
The Tourette Association of America recently announced this year’s Youth Ambassador Program inductees – a group of teens that were selected to participate in the association’s ambassador training program in Orlando, Florida, July 13.
These teens, both with and without Tourette Syndrome and related tic disorders, shared their personal stories and were coached on how to raise funds and advocate for public policies and services that promote positive school, work and social environments for individuals affected by the disorder.
Among the chosen youth ambassadors was Choctaw’s Bryant Chitsey who completed a comprehensive training designed to equip ambassadors with the tools they need to speak publicly about the often misunderstood disorder.
Even though it’s estimated that 1 in 100 school-aged children in the United States has TS or a related tic disorder, the wide range of symptoms that include both motor and vocal tics can lead to bullying, isolation and life-long learning or emotional issues.
Chitsey was diagnosed with TS when he was a fifth grader, and he experienced firsthand how poorly children suffering from tic disorders can be treated as a result of a general lack of understanding by society.
“When I was first diagnosed I was at a different school. Elementary school wasn’t too bad, but when I got into middle school was when the bullying started,” said Chitsey.
Following a challenging middle school experience, the Chitsey family moved from a rural Class A size school to Class 6A’s Choctaw High School, which is the 22nd largest high school in the state.
“Freshman year we decided to move here, and it has been a positive experience,” Chitsey said. “I’ve been able to talk about it all the time so people know I have it. They know what’s happening, and don’t really treat me any different.”
Through the teen’s willingness to openly discuss his condition and Choctaw’s supportive environment he has been able to excel at CHS and EOC Technology Center.
He has worked an internship for a local veterinarian since he was 14, and studies graphic design at EOC Tech.
“This last year I placed second at state for t-shirt design and fourth for ad design,” said Chitsey. “My dream job would be a background designer for Disney.”
The teen believes his work as an ambassador can help others with tic disorders find success.
Chitsey says most suffering from a tic disorder don’t curse or move violently like often portrayed in the media.
He says conditions affect both children and adults, causing them to make sudden, uncontrollable movements or sounds called tics (head bobbing, arm jerking, shoulder shrugging and grunting).
Non-tic features, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning difficulties, often develop in affected individuals.
Following the recent training, Chitsey is now prepared to further educate his peers and community on how to promote understanding and social acceptance of TS and its symptoms, by presenting to schools, clubs and community centers.
“I want to explain to the outside world what Tourette Syndrome really is. It isn’t always what they see in the media, which usually involves a lot of swearing. It can be blinking a lot, or small vocal tics like grunting,” says Chitsey. “I want to bring awareness to this so that we can gather more support to research and help our youth and adults who struggle with Tourette Syndrome.”
Chitsey is willing to speak to civic clubs, counselors or anyone else who is interested in learning more.
To schedule an educational presentation email [email protected] or call 405-343-9211.
The Tourette Association’s Youth Ambassador Program, which empowers youth to improve public speaking skills while spreading awareness and acceptance for TS, is a crucial part of the association’s mission.
The Tourette Association of America launched the program in 2002 and continued it as an annual program due to the first year’s success. The program has grown to nearly 500 dedicated teens who have completed more than 1,000 activities including presentations, print and TV media interviews, and training other youth ambassadors to reach more than 5.5 million people through their combined efforts.
“The Association is proud to celebrate fourteen years of bringing together and mentoring an ever-expanding network of teens, all committed to raising local and national awareness for the complexities of living with Tourette Syndrome and related Tic Disorders,” said Amanda Talty, President and CEO, Tourette Association of America. “Each of our Youth Ambassadors has a unique story to share that brings to light the need to advocate and to educate communities about ways they can support the TS community.”
For more information on Tourette and tic disorders, call 1-888-4-TOURET, visit Tourette.org.