In looking up some information this morning to share for Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month, I ran across some statistics on a Neuroscience For Kids page. The site states that between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans have Tourette Syndrome, a number that I was well aware of (in actuality, the number is estimated to be closer to 200,000). It then went on to say that "About 1 million Americans may have very mild symptoms of TS." In 2011, the population of the United States reached over 311 million. When you look at 1 million, it seems like a small portion of the US, seeing how large the population of the US is. However, when you think of it in the terms of 1 out of about every 311 people, it makes you really stop to think.
Tourette Syndrome is much more common than most people realize. On the average day, we can easily encounter 300+ people. Work, school, running errands... Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by others, most of which we don't even know. When you think about all the people that enter our lives, even if only for a split second in passing, you realize that there is a possibility that at least 1 of those individuals that crosses your path has Tourette Syndrome or symptoms of Tourette Syndrome.
If the numbers are that high, why is it that there is very little awareness about what Tourette Syndrome really is? There is so much awareness out there for other medical conditions - Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, etc - that we don't even really stop to think anything is out of the ordinary anymore when we come face-to-face with someone affected by these conditions. So why is it that when people see or hear someone ticcing in public, they stop and stare? Why isn't there more awareness that there are medical reasons for these behaviors, that kids aren't just being unruly?
Tourette Syndrome isn't completely ignored by the media. Sure, there are portrayals of people living with TS on movies and TV shows. Sadly, though, the majority of these portrayals only show people who have coprolalia (the use of obscenities). The truth is that only 10%-15% (statistics vary depending on source) of people with Tourette Syndrome exhibit signs on coprolalia. The media, for the most part, fails to portray what life with Tourettes is really like. Until more accurate accounts are shown, TS awareness is going to be skewed.