World Tourette’s Awareness Day: UP graduate Radlyn Naidoo shares his success story

Posted on June 07, 2019

With Tourette’s Awareness Day being commemorated worldwide on 7 June, we caught up with University of Pretoria (UP) honours student Radlyn Naidoo, a BCom graduate who has Tourette’s syndrome, for first-hand insight into his experience of living – and studying – with this neurological disorder.

What is Tourette’s syndrome and how does it affect you?

Tourette’s is characterised by involuntary muscle movements and/or vocal outbursts. These “tics” occur anytime, anywhere and without warning. My case is one of 12 in the country: I suffer from a combination of muscle and vocal tics: I swear out loud involuntarily, and I punch myself. I dislocate my wrist about five times a day. Tics can be triggered by stress and anxiety, but my condition is so severe that too much of any type of emotion can aggravate them.

How has the condition affected your studies?

It has affected me drastically throughout the course of my studies. I used to hit myself during lectures and dislocate my joints; I also have to manage my emotions so that my tics aren’t triggered in class or on campus. This has always been a challenge. Tourette’s affects my concentration because I have accompanying disorders such as ADHD and OCD, as well as insomnia.

If someone with Tourette’s is having a seizure, how can they be helped?

When a Tourette’s sufferer, or even an epilepsy sufferer, is having a seizure, the first thing to do is turn the person onto their side to make sure they do not swallow their tongue. You can also place a bunch of blunt metal keys in their fist – the sensation in their palm might alleviate the convulsions and help them gain consciousness a bit faster. Talk to the sufferer during their seizure as there is a chance that they are able to process that stimulus, which will help to calm them down a lot faster.

The most common misconception is that all sufferers swear out loud – this is known as coprolalia. It is important to note that only 10 percent of people with Tourette’s, if not less, have coprolalia. Those with Tourette’s syndrome are not aggressive people, though their tics can be perceived that way.

Whether you have Tourette’s, a different type of disability or even no disability at all, simply treat people like human beings – with love and kindness. Those have been and always will be the forces that can change things for the better.

How have the support systems at UP been of help to you?

The library, the Disability Unit and Department of Marketing Management made my journey nothing short of incredible. The Marketing Management Department went above and beyond to ensure that I was coping. Throughout my undergraduate degree, Maria and Simon at the Disability Unit made it possible for me to write my tests at a separate venue and in comfort. I even made use of the student health clinic on Hatfield Campus when I had an emergency, which was really helpful.

What interests you about marketing and how do you plan to use your degree?

Marketing interests me because it takes place in the real world, around us, every day, both subliminally and directly. It is hands on, practical and fast-paced, and there is always something new to learn. You must have passion to succeed, and my passion and zest for life is why I love this field of study so much. I plan to help small and medium-sized businesses as well as embark on my own entrepreneurial endeavours.

What is your best memory of your time at UP?

Receiving an email to say that I’d met the requirements for my degree. It was the feeling you get when you finally realise that it was all worth it.

- Author Shakira Hoosain

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