A brave photography student at Stratford-upon-Avon College recently offered peers and tutors a glimpse into her life with Tourette’s syndrome.
Cece Jaye, 17 from Worcestershire, grabbed the attention of her course mates as she delivered an informative presentation on what Tourette’s syndrome (TS) is and how she went from barely speaking for four years at school to finally finding her voice at College.
Cece remarks: “In my old school I had to suppress my tics out of fear that I’d get bullied or made fun of, but our photography class is so close that from the second week I was comfortable enough to stop suppressing them because it’s such an accepting environment.”
Cece wanted her classmates to understand the condition and to feel comfortable asking her questions about it. Photography lecturer, Sophie Jolly was beaming with pride as she explained: “Cece approached me and asked if she could deliver this presentation to the class, it was touching and educational. I felt so immensely proud of her.”
In her presentation, Cece explained that TS is a medical condition caused by tics – a movement or a sound that your body has no control over, and further delved into the do’s and don’ts of how to interact when someone is having tics: “It really upsets me when people pretend to tic after me or tell me that they feel like ticcing when they see me as it really downplays my experience of someone living with Tourette’s.”
Cece’s message is obviously connecting as she recently received almost 20,000 likes on her TikTok video about the subject.
Sixth Form wasn’t for Cece and so at the start of lockdown she applied to Stratford-upon-Avon College where she has been able to focus all her attention on photography. Speaking of her tutors, Cece comments: “Sophie and Nick have been amazing. It’s nice to know that they don’t mind at all about my tics and even laugh along with us if I say something funny which is so important for me to feel comfortable.”
Tourettes Action, a charity supporting those living with TS, estimates that the condition affects over 300,000 people in the UK. Cece wasn’t expecting to be listened to the way she has been at College and now feels empowered to raise awareness and get rid of some of the stigmas around tics and TS.
Amongst the various challenges that having TS brings, lockdown has brought with it something new to contend with – masks. Cece explains: “I wear a mask most of the time but sometimes my tics make it hard to breathe so I have to take it off and I also occasionally have a tic where I flick the mask off. I’ve been shouted at in lots of different places even when I’m wearing them.”
She urges others to be mindful of reprimanding people for not wearing a mask and be aware of hidden disability sunflower lanyards, which are made available for students and staff to collect at the College’s reception.
Upon completion of her course, Cece would like to work in a studio for wedding photography and family portraits with the hope to eventually start her own photography business.