A teenager with Tourette’s wants to help others by spreading his story.
Different Is the New Normal tracks trials and triumphs of Ariel Small, a 17-year-old who has struggled with uncontrollable tics caused by Tourette’s syndrome—and others’ intolerance throughout his life. The film reveals an acutely personal first-hand account of Tourette’s through the eyes of Ariel Small. With his permission, his mother Robin turned the camera on him to document their emotional journey to overcome the obstacles of Tourette’s in order to raise awareness about the disorder and help others living with the condition.
Ariel also wrote something for us about the film and his experiences with TS. Check it out below.
I’m a kid—like every other kid—except I have Tourette’s syndrome.
It hasn’t always been easy living with TS. Middle school was a lonely time. I spent most of my seventh- and eighth-grade years in the hallway or in the principal’s office. The principal told me, “I don’t really buy into the whole Tourette’s thing. You’re using it as an excuse for bad behavior.”
I began to wonder. Am I Tourette’s or am I me? Did I want Tourette’s to control my life’s path, or would I make my own? While I needed to be an advocate for myself, I needed to be an advocate for others, too. I needed to let all the other kids with TS know that I knew how they were feeling.
Although my outward symptoms continue to lessen, I still struggle. Knowing the struggle I’m going through, I want to give a voice to all those now-silent kids who feel the same way. Every child has the right to dignity, to have dreams and goals, and to be able to achieve them.
As I spoke to more parents of children with TS, I realized that my story gave them hope. So, with the help of my parents, we filmed a documentary, following my year as a Tourette’s Syndrome Association of Illinois Youth Ambassador. We want the documentary to help change the perception of TS and to inspire all the kids suffering with it.
Knowing that I’m not alone, that there are people outside of my family who understand and care about me, has driven me to better advocate for myself. I can only hope that our documentary does the same for others.
Different Is the New Normal premiers this Thursday at 8 pm (EST) on THIRTEEN, the New York public TV station. Then, on Tuesday, September 20th at 10 pm (EST), it’ll be shown on New Jersey public TV station NJTV.
Be on the lookout for an announcement of when Different Is the New Normal will be shown in your area.