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12-year-old Battery Park resident Jessica Brown has spent the majority of her life struggling with Tourette Syndrome (TS), a neurological disorder that many people incorrectly refer to as the “cursing disease.” Jessica was diagnosed with TS in the middle of 3RD grade when she began experiencing OCD, anxiety, and involuntary movements and vocalizations such as violently coughing, which was misdiagnosed as asthma. This heavily stigmatized disorder has made her an easy target for bullying, and children at school often triggered her tics when they mimicked her actions.
Instead of letting the tics get her down, Jessica has a positive attitude and is combatting bullying through the Tourette Association of America’s (TAA) Youth Ambassador Program (YA), an initiative launched in 2008 that trains teens with and without Tourette to speak on national and local platforms about Tourette awareness and education. Jessica was given the honor of being inducted into the 2017 YA program, and advocated on Capitol Hill with Congressman Jerrold Nadler in his Washington office, in addition to other senators like Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer for legislation to increase research dollars and combat the stigma surrounding TS on National Advocacy Day.
National Advocacy Day is a crucial component of the Tourette Association’s Youth Ambassador Program, and to date, YAs 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. Jessica plans to raise these statistics by presenting at schools in the Battery Park area, raising money and advocating for public policies and services that promote positive school, work and social environments for individuals affected by the disorder.