EDISON — Kyndra Irwin plays basketball, has a job, enjoys jet skiing and hanging out with her friends.
The 16-year-old Mount Gilead High School junior also has Tourette Syndrome.
“It started with stomach pains and my face twitching,” Irwin recalled as she told her story to the Mount Gilead Kiwanis Club at its Aug. 11 lunch meeting at Edison Depot.
Accompanied by her father, she did a presentation and answered questions about Tourettes. She was selected as one of 37 Youth Ambassadors for the Tourette Association of America.
“I got it later than most kids,” Irwin said. “The biggest thing is the anxiety attacks.”
Irwin is poised and well spoken on the subject — and even interjects a bit of humor — when discussing her challenge.
“It is a neuro developmental disorder and a lifelong condition. There are no meds for Tourettes. I take medicine for the anxiety.”
“My parents (John and Cherilyn) advocate for me; but I wanted to advocate for myself and others.”
One out of every 160 children ages 5-17 in the United States has Tourette Syndrome.
“Getting ready to play basketball or sitting on the bench, I’m twitching. But once I’m in the game or doing something it’s less,” Irwin said. “The tics (motor and vocal) are something I can’t control.”
Listening to music and reading help her focus and often reduce both the tics and the anxiety.
During the Covid pandemic Irwin said her anxiety increased a great deal. She had to re-learn being around other people.
Just prior to that Irwin was in the nation’s capital. She appeared on Capitol Hill March 5, 2020, and advocated for public policies and services for people affected by Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders.
“I met Senators and Representatives in DC to tell my story,” she said.
The school year is approaching and Irwin has a busy schedule. She plans to study computer science in college.
Information on Tourette Syndrome can be found at tourette.org.