'It’s like a puzzle that only needs two pieces': Meet the father and son living with Tourette Syndrome

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Bailey and his dad Duncan Whitcombe have a shared motto: the family that tics together, sticks together.

The father and son duo both have a very rare neurological disorder known as Tourette Syndrome – nicknamed Tourette’s – that is usually diagnosed in childhood and continues throughout a person’s life.

Duncan was first diagnosed when he was 10 years old and says he didn’t meet anyone else with the condition until he was 40.

“When I was growing up there was no one I could relate to,” he says.

“The way that it affects me, I have a head shake and occasionally I have a compulsion to make a verbal noise.

 

Tourette
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“I would describe Tourette Syndrome as being some electronic device that was running at full capacity and then all of sudden there’s an energy surge and it goes into a short circuit which is a tic … you can try to hold it back but eventually you’re going to tic.”

Duncan says school “wasn’t a lot of fun” due to his condition, with bullies and teachers both having no concept or understanding of what he was suffering from.

When he and his wife Trudy first started noticing that Bailey was displaying signs of Tourette’s they were in denial because “I didn’t want him to go through some of the negative things I went through”.

Bailey
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For Bailey, though, one of the biggest positives about his condition has been knowing there's someone under the very same roof who understands completely what he’s going through.

“I do feel comfortable around my dad, knowing that he has Tourette's as well, because we both understand each other,” he says.

“It’s like a tiny puzzle that only needs two pieces.”

Trudy says they’ve been lucky so far, with most of Bailey’s tics “quite mild” but he also has deal with the effects of anxiety, ADHD, OCD, dysgraphia and “he's recently been put on high-functioning ASD as well”.

Although there were some “difficulties” on his first day of school and they shortly switched thereafter.

“The reason I moved school was because the principal and most of the children there were dickheads,” says Bailey.

“Someone who doesn’t care about another kid they’re supposed to be teaching, well their not principal-worthy.

“I think school teachers and students need to be aware of Tourette’s. 

"I'm trying to fit into different puzzles, but at Tourette's camp is the right puzzle that I can fit my piece into."

“They just have to go with the flow. It’s a little noise, it’s not like we are rampaging you, we're making a little noise, sometimes little movements, it can’t do that much harm.

“Deal with it, we can’t help it.”

There are kids all across Australia dealing with Tourette’s every day and Trudy found a camp that supports them through the TS Association of Australia.

For Bailey – who hadn’t met anyone with Tourette Syndrome besides his father – the camp was an incredible experience.

“I just feel like I fit in there,” he says.

“I'm trying to fit into different puzzles, but at Tourette's camp is the right puzzle that I can fit my piece into.

“The Tourette's camp can keep building, more people can add their puzzle pieces, they can all fit in… most of my Tourette's friends are going to be friends for life.”

Bailye Tourette
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