Salem girl selected as National Youth Ambassador for Tourette's Syndrome

Published: Jul. 25, 2019 at 6:16 PM EDT
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A 14-year-old girl from Salem is making it her mission to spread awareness about her disorder--Tourette's. The Tourette Association of America has just named her a National Youth Ambassador for the syndrome.

Kennerly Nichols has been living with Tourette's her entire life.

"Occasionally doing that, maybe like flicking my writsts, the occasional eye cut, things like that," Kennerly, a new Youth Ambassador for the Tourette Association of America, said.

The ticks were worse for Kennerly when she was younger--they have tapered off over the years.

"By third grade it was very noticeable, she would have a lot of headaches by the end of the day, her shoulders would hurt from some of the shoulder shrugs she was doing, and she was just absolutely exhausted," Kennerly's mother, Stacey Nichols, said.

1 in every 162 children have Tourette's, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Kennerly wants others to know, you can't always spot Tourette's.

"A lot of the reactions were more like, 'oh I've never noticed it! You haven't ever shouted out or done anything super noticeable,' and that's where I would say, 'most people don't actually do that.," Kennerly said.

As many as 1 in 100 Americans have a milder form of Tourette's, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders.

To make people more aware of the disorder, Kennerly recently went to Florida to train with the Tourette Association of America. There, she was selected to be a National Youth Ambassador for Tourette's, so she and others can be better understood.

"It doesn't make people that much different, we can still interact, we still have friends, and you know, we're not so much different," Kennerly said.

"Tourette's is not a joke, and to really spread the message and educate people, that goes such a long way in helping others to understand the disorder so that they can be compassionate," Stacey added.

Kennerly will be giving presentations on Tourette's throughout Virginia, speaking to schools and churches.