After a hard school year, 14-year-old Jane Hamilton is no longer nervous about her Tourette syndrome.
The Minnesota teen has a mild form of the syndrome, which causes involuntary tics as well as repetitive movements and vocalizations, and Jane wants to show others that she can still do the same things most other kids her age can.
“I think one thing about Tourette’s people don’t understand [is] it’s not just people cussing — that’s not it at all,” Hamilton told InsideEdition.com. “My Tourette’s is pretty mild. The thing is it can vary, I mean, before I’ve had somewhat extreme Tourette’s. Now I don’t, really.”
The teenager made the Century High School cheerleading team this year and she’s hoping her participation will raise awareness about Tourette’s.
Last March, Jane said she really struggled because she had a tic that caused her to make loud noises and people didn’t understand why she was doing it.
“I had this tic where I would squeak, kind of like a guinea pig,” Jane said. “This is my first actual vocal tic that I’ve had in a really long time and so I truly felt like I had to explain myself. Like if I didn’t, people would think I was being obnoxious.”
The high school sophomore gave a quick presentation in her classes to help students understand what it was, but she said some students did not receive it well. She said some even laughed at her because she had a tic during one of her speeches.
“They just started laughing at me as I was presenting, and that wasn’t very fun, but I kept going and I got pretty choked up during that,” Jane said.
Jane said her current tic is much milder and usually occurs from her earlobe to shoulder. She also blinks repeatedly at times.
“When I go out, it’s a little weird because people think that I’m making faces at them, and sometimes it will get so bad that people will think I’m winking at them and that’s a little awkward,” Jane said.
But, Jane said she isn’t nervous about this school year as people are already aware of her condition. She said that being on the cheerleading squad is helping her because she's felt as though she was always in the background in the past.
“I could tell she was working really hard, so I wanted to make sure she had a spot on the team… and truly blossomed on this team,” said Alyssa Pederson, the school’s cheerleading coach. “She’s always happy [and] energetic.”
Jane said she was nervous during cheer practices in the beginning because she was still experiencing her vocal tic.
She was afraid of judgement and even contemplated quitting but decided against it. The teen said she realized she was somewhat the “face of Tourette’s” at her school and didn’t want to be a quitter.
“I feel like people think that I’m not able to do social things or performing or things like that because of my Tourette’s, but the thing is, that like, I’m still doing cheer — how do you think I’m wearing this uniform if I didn’t get through all of cheer,” Jane said. “Yeah, I think I can do a lot of stuff that people don’t think I can do.”
Jane is a Tourette Association of America Youth Ambassador and helps to increase awareness and understanding of Tourette syndrome and tic disorders in her community.