On Tourettes Awareness Day, we hear from 2019 Legacy Award recipient Ross Macpherson. After his diagnosis with Tourette syndrome, Ross began to create origami structures as a coping mechanism, raising thousands of pounds for Tourette Scotland. Ross also gives his time during the school day to support his peers and in his local community for other disability non-profits.
Tourette Syndrome is a complex neurological condition caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, affecting around 1 in every 100 people worldwide. Tourette’s has many different forms and affects each person in a different way. The condition causes people to make involuntary muscle movements (motor tics), make noises and say words (vocal tics) and repeating persistent random thoughts (internal tics). Only around 10% of people with Tourette’s have coprolalia (swearing). Quite often Tourette’s Syndrome comes with co-occurring conditions, such as ADHD, OCD, ASD, to name but a few. Generally, Tourette’s is more common in boys than girls and most are diagnosed in childhood.
My name is Ross Macpherson and I am 18 years old. At the age of 9, I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome. It affects me with motor, vocal and internal ‘tics’, these include shouting words, phrases, different noises, twitching, throwing my arms out, etc. Coping mechanisms are a key part of managing Tourette’s, and I have developed many over the years. The best one that works for me is by being creative. Any kind of art needs focus, and as I focus on my art, my brain becomes distracted from my tics, meaning they are usually more under control and less frequent. Some of the art I have done includes modular origami models, drawing, sewing and painting.
The starting point for my campaigning was when I started high school, and somebody realised I had Tourette’s, but was confused, as they had never heard me swearing. That was when I knew something had to be done, as it is one of the most misrepresented conditions in the world.
Ross receiving his Legacy Award from The Earl Spencer in Painted Hall, 2019.
At this point I decided to sell some of my work at different craft fayres and events, as well as doing commissions. By doing this, I raised thousands of pounds, which I donated to the charity Tourette Scotland. This charity was chosen as they are the only charity in Scotland who support Tourette sufferers and their families. I thought it would be good to give something back in return after the support that my family and I received. Through selling, I have also managed to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome by opening up conversation with potential customers.
I’ve also visited local primary schools to teach origami as well as in my own high school and let young people know that no matter what barriers are thrown in their way, if they believe in themselves then anything is possible! Tourette Scotland also recognised my efforts and awarded me with the position of Youth Ambassador which shows me as a positive role model for other young people with Tourette’s.
Tourette’s Awareness Day is so important to be recognised, as it helps bring acceptance and understanding within the local and wider communities and give sufferers a sense of belonging. It is a full day to spread the word, that there is more to it than just people swearing all the time, that it affects so many people worldwide, and that we are so much more than what everyone thinks, from how the media portray us.
Simple ways to get involved:
1. Check out the Tourette Scotland website, or you local Tourettes Awareness Group!
2. Research the condition, and spread the word that it’s not as the media says, and promote the real facts!
Top tips for if you meet someone with Tourettes:
1. Be inquisitive, but not intrusive. Ask questions! Most will be happy to answer, but some may not, so be respectful.
2. Don’t be offended by what we may say or do, it is out with our control.