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May 28, 2021

[Ep 209] The Man: Journey to Embracing and Thriving with Tourette's Syndrome

In this episode of The Parenting Cipher, William Atikins IV, a high school senior, joins Genie to talk about his experience having Tourette’s Syndrome. William, joined by his mother, shares about getting his diagnosis, making friends, and setting goals and aspirations. Hear about what helped him accept himself and take exciting chances in this episode of The Parenting Cipher

What is Tourette Syndrome?

The commonality of Tourette Syndrome is usually associated with people who blurt out profane language aka “cuss words” or “swear words.” However, this sole involuntary function is not defined as Tourette Syndrome on its own. According to William, “Tourette Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one’s body and voice.” A person must exhibit both motor and vocal tics to be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Motor tics are involuntary movements and vocal tics are involuntary sounds. It’s during the beginning of our conversation when William used a backpack metaphor to explain his day-to-day living with Tourette Syndrome in a related fashion for others to understand. William’s disposition is one of the most positive I have come across in a long time.

Self-Love: The Importance of Understanding Your Diagnosis

“It’s called self-love. Because, if you don’t love yourself – Oh me and Daddy go’n love you unconditionally. … But, it starts from you! You have to accept everything in your being from the head to the toe. You gotta love all – the good, the bad, the ugly, the tics, everything. Self-esteem is real. Once I instilled those things in him, and he did some things on his own, he accepted it.” – Tanya Atkins

Taking it back to fourth grade, William talked about when his motor tics started. He revealed that before being diagnosed, children called him, “tornado neck.” It’s at that moment I realized William’s self-love started at a young age. He goes on to say when children called him names, he called them names in return. While many would see this as childhood bullying, William assured me it was, “all in fun.” He was never bullied. He was accepted because he accepted himself first before knowing what he had. 

Because William’s symptoms were not overtly clear, his diagnosis went unclaimed until his sophomore year in high school. Before being diagnosed, William’s self-love took a hit. He shared that when all of his symptoms were happening at once, he became a loner, wore hooded sweatshirts to hide, and often cried, “God, why me?” William didn’t have an issue making friends but once he learned of his disorder, making friends became easier. His head was held high again. He was no longer a loner by choice. He engaged with his friends and made new ones. He joined the swim team! 

Supporting Your Child

There are times when we as parents think we know, and we don’t. We should investigate what is going on with our children instead of dismissing it as something else. The parenting journey is taken with your child, not on your own. They learn from you; you learn from them and the cycle continues daily. 

William told us about his grandmother helping him deal with his motor tics in the fourth grade before learning what they were. Tanya confessed how William’s cough, “got on her nerves.” When she learned his cough was his vocal tic and not asthma, in her words, “I FELT AWFUL!” 

Together, Tanya and William went into research mode to learn everything they could about Tourette Syndrome once William was diagnosed. Tanya has been William’s biggest cheerleader and advocate ever since. Their bond is quite strong and positive.

While supporting your child is important, supporting a child is important too. William tells us how a friend’s mom encouraged him to write about his diagnosis on social media. From there, William says that positive push helped him fully accept his Tourette Syndrome. After starting his social media presence, The Tourette Syndrome Association reached out to him. William is now one of their ambassadors. 

* * *

William was accepted into 12 colleges. His number one pick is the University of California, Los Angeles where he plans to major in Public Relations with a minor in Criminology. Remember the name, Mr. William Atkins IV. This man is going places!

I’ll leave you with a William quote, “If you’re a role model and you’re a leader, people of different ethnicities, different races, different social backgrounds, different sexualities, different everything, they should be able to look at you and say, I learned something from him or her.” –William Atkins IV

Genie Dawkins

Host of The Parenting Cipher, Genie Dawkins is a single mother of four and has over 25 years of being a parent advocate of special needs children. In addition to obtaining her Certification in Integrative Health Coaching, Lateefa holds an M.S. in Non-Profit Management and a B.S. in Social Sciences. Genie is the best-selling author of two books “Not My Child: Navigating Your Child’s Learning Difficulties with IEP’s and Education Resources” and a recent release “The Joyful Family Planner”. As an educational advocacy specialist, her mission is to help parents achieve a balanced life and overcome inevitable challenges both at school and home in a way that empowers parents and children.

About our Guest:

William Atkins IV is a senior at Mckinley Technology High School in Washington D.C.. He is on the varsity swim team, in a group called Men of Tech, and is a rising leader and Youth Ambassador for the National Tourette’s Association of America, where he spreads awareness about his Tourette’s Syndrome. William’s mother, Tanya Atkins, joins him. 

Insight from this episode:

  • What is Tourette’s Syndrome? 

  • Details on what it’s like growing up with Tourette’s, from making friends to accepting the diagnosis. 

  • William’s experience living with Tourette’s, including joining the swim team in high school.

  • Reflections on when your child goes off to college. 


Quotes from the show:

  • “I had started posting about [Tourette’s on social media] and continued posting about it because at school people didn’t know what was going on, so I figured it was just an easier way to tell everyone instead of everyone looking at me and giving me the side-eye. A lot of people are on social media, so it’s just easy. If you see the post, then you know.” –William Atkins IV The Parenting Cipher Ep. #9 

  • “The more people know, then the more they’re able to accept. Otherwise, they come up with their own story.” –Genie Dawkins The Parenting Cipher Ep. #9 

  • “I’m entrusting I have instilled great morals and values in my son. He knows right from wrong, and he knows what to do and what not to do. And I know he’s going to be really successful… I’m willing to let him go.” –Tanya Atkins (William’s mom) The Parenting Cipher Ep. #9  

  • “I didn’t know that [Tourette’s] included other things, because all you hear is the swearing part.” –Tanya Atkins (William’s mom) The Parenting Cipher Ep. #9 

  • “Although we do, as Black young men, we do face [trials], we gotta keep pushing, keep going, and keep striving because when we do, we can set examples for other people.” –William Atkins IV The Parenting Cipher Ep. #9 

  • “If you’re a role model and you’re a leader, people of different ethnicities, different races, different social backgrounds, different sexualities, different everything, they should be able to look at you and say, I learned something from him or her.” –William Atkins IV The Parenting Cipher Ep. #9 

Stay Connected:

Genie Dawkins

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William Atikins IV

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LinkedIn: William Atkins IV

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Post-production for this episode was provided by Podcast Laundry.


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