#UPGraduation2020: Tourette’s syndrome did not hold back UP graduate

Posted on June 14, 2020

Music and determination propelled Radlyn Naidoo, a University of Pretoria (UP) BCom Honours graduate with Tourette’s syndrome (TS), to achieve his goals.

He completed his honours in Marketing Management despite the challenges that this neurological disorder posed to him. Tourette’s syndrome is characterised by ‘tics’ - involuntary muscle movements and/or vocal outbursts. These occur anytime, anywhere and without warning.

Naidoo is one of 11 000 UP graduates who were awarded their qualifications in absentia during the autumn virtual graduation ceremony necessitated by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to apply the marketing acumen and education I have attained from my postgraduate studies to help lay the groundwork for my corporate career, which will then fund the marketing of my independent music efforts as a signed artist and lyricist,” he said.

Naidoo added that he feels blessed to be graduating again. “I am the first person in my immediate family to have had the privilege of studying towards a degree. So to be graduating for the second time is truly a dream come true!”

UP graduate Radlyn Naidoo says there is still a lot of ignorance about Tourette’s syndrome that troubles him more than having the disorder, which has motivated him to become a national Tourette’s ambassador.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Living with TS has meant that Naidoo has to deal with a variety of disorders ranging from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“In many ways, my Tourette’s has created certain speed bumps. I struggle to concentrate, and I would dislocate my left wrist three or four times during every single test, as I have a muscular tic that resulted in me punching the table I was sitting at. Note that I am left-handed. I would pop my wrist back in place, manoeuvre my wrist to make sure it was in the correct place, pick up my pen and continue with my test. To many, this seemed abnormal. For me, this was my normal. Under test conditions, my tics were always naturally aggravated due to stress and anxiety. Hence, I chose to write all my semester tests and examinations in a separate venue because my tics, both muscular and vocal, could be extremely distracting to other students,” he said.

Explaining the disorder, Naidoo said there is still a lot of ignorance about it that troubles him more than having Tourette’s, which motivated him to become a national Tourette’s ambassador.

He says other disorders often accompany Tourette’s, including ADHD, OCD and insomnia. “These aggravate the severity, intensity and frequency of my tics or twitches. Having Tourette’s is hard enough to deal with for a few reasons. I injure myself physically when I have muscular tics. I often go two to three days without sleep, which further aggravates my tics.”

Naidoo said his support system has helped get him to the finish line, twice now. The efforts of the staff at the EMS Faculty have been invaluable. “The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, particularly the Department of Marketing Management, have been a tremendous blessing to me throughout my academic journey at the University of Pretoria. They have assisted me by always being supportive, empathetic, nurturing and encouraging towards my academic goals.

“I also received help from the Disability Unit on Hatfield Campus, who would attend to securing separate examination venues and invigilators for me to complete all my tests. I am truly thankful for their help and support.”

His advice to youth about building a stronger South Africa: “Practice kindness for no reason at all... It is the key to ensuring that we uphold our humanity and to building a better tomorrow. Also, it's okay to fail, because failure means you've found one way how not to do something – so don’t take it to heart.”

Naidoo is now working in the financial services industry, where he is completing an End User Computing Learnership with Sanlam to enhance his IT and computing capacities. As for his musical talent, we’re waiting to hear his smooth vocals on the radio in the near future.

- Author Masego Panyane

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