A 14-year-old student at St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny has taken the brave step of publicly explaining what it is like to live with Tourette Syndrome in an effort to raise awareness of the condition.
Second year pupil Aidan Coyle from Meadowbank in Letterkenny only developed the condition last summer when it went from small involuntary physical movements, known as ‘tics’ and went on to include a vocal tic as well.
The nature of the vocal tic means Aidan can involuntary shout swear words, yet has no control over what he says. He said he now wishes to speak about the issue after his school moved to address his problem following his diagnosis.
Staff and pupils were informed that a student had developed the syndrome last summer. They were told that all efforts would be made to have him return to school as soon as possible to complete his education and not let his condition be a factor in curtailing his schooling.
Speaking on Tuesday, Aidan, alongside his mother Kathleen and class tutor Pauric Meehan, said he first feared he may have to leave school as his tic could prove too disruptive in the classroom.
Within days of action being taken by the school, just after Aidan, his mum and a member of Donegal Youth Service met with Principal Chris Darby, he had settled back into school life and his class mates continued on as normal, paying little attention to his tic. The rest of the school students were soon learning to understand his condition.
Pauric said most of the ideas on how to handle the situation in school came from Aidan himself and this has helped him “blend in with the furniture”. He said he gets “no stick whatsoever” in the classroom.
Aidan’s motive to publicly highlight his condition is the reaction by many adults towards his Tourette’s when he is out and about in town with his friends or family.
He explains: “There were a few incidents in town where people kept stopping me and kept giving out to me for swearing. They thought they (the verbal tics) were threats so we thought if we highlighted it, we would spread awareness.”
His mother says the school has been “amazing” in dealing with the situation and the main problem lies with adults outside school.
“It’s mainly the adults. If we go out shopping, it is the adults that throw the dirty looks or walk past mocking him or laughing, so it was Aidan who said himself that now was the time to raise awareness of the condition.”
Aidan says he would like to make a career in music in the future and is a bass playing member of punk band, Blunt Vegas.
“I’d like to thank the school and the Donegal Youth Service and all my friends and classmates. I hope people out on the street can now understand my condition and realise it’s not just me being ignorant to them,” he added.