HUNTERSVILLE - Ron Polcyn had hoped that since his two daughters had not inherited his Tourette's syndrome, his son, Austin, also would not develop it.
Yet right around the age of 5 or 6, Austin started showing symptoms. Now at 13, he has tics, such as doing things with his hands, jumping and facial grimaces when he eats.
While many people associate the syndrome with cursing uncontrollably, there actually are many types of tics people can experience. They also can change daily.
"He could have one tic today and two tomorrow," Ron said. Then his tics could completely disappear and he could be in remission until five years down the line, it could come back.
People with Tourette's syndrome often also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). When Ron gets stressed out, his OCD becomes more pronounced where he will repeatedly have to check something.
"Eventually I say, 'That's the last time,' " he said.
A third of the people with it stutter, something that Austin does, Ron said.
A big trigger for Austin is stress. When he becomes overwhelmed, his tics become more pronounced. If he is having trouble with his homework and becomes too
stressed about it, his parents encourage him to go upstairs to his bedroom to play the drums.
Drumming is his outlet, something he does to relax.
While not everyone with Tourette's syndrome plays drums, Ron said it is important for them to have outlets.
"I know what he's going through," Ron said. "I was in martial arts. That was my escape. ... I don't know where I'd be if my father didn't get me involved with it."
Like Austin, Ron inherited Tourette's from his father.
Ron had done some drumming, which inspired him to buy a drum set for Austin at a "dollar" store. He did not have it long before it broke. He got another one, which also broke. When he became serious about drumming, his parents bought him a "nice drum set."
"I surpassed my Dad a long time ago (in drumming)," Austin said.
He drums every day he can. Recently, he started working with Mike Wrench, who brought to the area Drums and Disabilities, a national organization based on helping people with disabilities through drumming.
Mostly however, Austin and his family have to deal with the misconceptions.
"A lot of people think people with Tourette's are mentally handicapped," Ron said.
Shannon, Austin's mother, worked with him and discovered he learned a different way.
She had him take a test after reading a lesson silently. He failed.
"The second test, he read out loud," Shannon said. "No mistakes."
His parents called him an auditory learner, something they shared with his teachers so they would know how to help him.
"A lot of people think he's stupid," Ron said. "He made the honor roll."
Some people think Tourette's syndrome is contagious, which it isn't.
Ron and Shannon want to make people more aware of facts about the syndrome. Ron said they begged his school for more than a year to educate the students about why Austin does what he does.
They educated one grade and some of the students asked questions, but it didn't help the students in seventh, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades.
Ron said he wants to educate people in hopes of stopping bullying. Austin has been yelled at in school for acting out in ways that he can't help.
"Teachers never understand," Shannon said.
"Every kid has a right to a fair and proper education," Ron said.
They tried starting a support group for anyone who has or anyone who knows someone who has or anyone who just want to learn more about Tourette's syndrome. If interested, call Ron at 435-5181.