The national Tourette Syndrome Association, Inc. (TSA) hosted its fourth annual Tourette Syndrome (TS) Youth Ambassador Training Program in Washington D.C. from March 29 through 31 for teens (with and without Tourette Syndrome) ages 13 to 17. After completing an application and submitting an essay regarding his intent and motivation to become a TS Youth Ambassador, Kenny Richards, 13 from Lakewood was selected to participate in this elite training. Kenny has now returned to Washington to educate his peers and younger children with accurate information by first starting a TS Support Group and second by going into classrooms, schools and clubs to teach understanding, sensitivity and tolerance of TS and its symptoms, while dispelling the myths and stereotypes that are often attributed to and associated with this misunderstood and misdiagnosed disorder. Kenny was accompanied by his mother, Carla Richards (Mrs. Washington 2010), who also participated in the training.
“What an amazing experience it was to see my son Kenny along with youth from all over the nation come together sharing their own TS stories, making unforgettable friendships, and using their diagnosis as a vehicle to help make a difference in the TS community,” noted Carla Richards following the trip.
“My favorite part about attending the Youth Ambassador TSA Training was being able to meet other kids with TS and share with them about a TS treatment that has helped me. I also really liked being able to meet with my State Senators and Representative,” said Kenny Richards.
In addition to the comprehensive training, the newly trained Youth Ambassadors participated in a “Trip to the Hill” on March 31 during which they met with their local elected officials on Capitol Hill to inform them about how TS affects those living in their communities. A Congressional Luncheon Briefing also took place that day, an event in which Senators, Congressmen and their aides hear first-hand about the struggles and issues faced from the Youth Ambassadors.
Kenny really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with the legislative aides of Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Patty Murray, and Representative Adam Smith. Kenny was able to share his TS story and educate his legislative officials on the importance of bringing TS awareness and support to both the educational and medical community. One of highlights of Kenny’s trip to the hill was being able to meet with Congressman Smith in person as well. “I even got to sit in his office chair!” (quote by Kenny)
“Although our time with Congressman Smith was brief, I really appreciate the genuine interest he took with my son showing his support for the often misunderstood diagnosis of TS.” (quote by Carla)
The TS Youth Ambassador program trains teens to advocate for themselves and for others and to educate their peers and younger children with accurate information. Youth Ambassadors also meet with politicians, appear in the media and assist with fundraising and awareness raising campaigns. Youth Ambassadors have found there are many personal benefits as well, such as learning to work as team members and developing increased confidence in public speaking. Youth Ambassadors learn skills that they will use for the rest of their lives and at the same time are helping to enlighten our generation about Tourette Syndrome.
Marked by involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics, Tourette Syndrome is an inherited neurological condition frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed, affecting more than 200,000 Americans. Founded in 1972, the national Tourette Syndrome Association celebrates 39 years of service to the TS community worldwide. As the only national, voluntary health organization for people with TS, the TSA has a three-pronged mission of education, research and service and directs a network of 32 Chapters and more than 133 support groups across the country. National Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month takes place from May 15 to June 15. For more information about TS, call 1-888-4-TOURET or visit tsa-usa.org.Print This Post