Woman with Tourette syndrome pens book to help others

Cover of a book with young girl walking alone on sidewalk.

Though she longed for fun and friends, Heather Hammel often spent her school days filled with dread.

“There are a lot of sounds and noises – and movements – that sometimes you just can’t control,” said Hammel, who has Tourette syndrome. “I got bullied all through school.”

Now 36 and determined to help others, Hammel has written a book called Angel’s Special Day about a young girl with Tourette syndrome who had begun to hate going to school. But life brightens for Angel when her family steps in to help other children understand her tics.

“By sharing my experiences, and what I went through, I’m trying to educate people about Tourette’s and other disabilities,” Hammel said. “People who don’t know you might stare at you, give you dirty looks. I’m just trying to raise awareness.”

According to the Tourette Association of America, the condition is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects children, adolescents and adults. It is characterized by sudden, involuntary movements or sounds called tics. The tics can range from mild to severe, and might wax and wane over time.

Common motor tics include eye blinking, head jerking and facial movements; common vocal tics are throat cleaning, sniffing and tongue clicking. Coprolalia, the involuntary utterance of socially unacceptable words and phrases, is relatively rare in people with Tourette and often doesn’t persist, the association says.

Hammel’s mother, Janice, said her daughter has made a lot of progress in the past few years and set her sights on writing a book. “I typed it for her, but the words are hers,” Janice said. “She wanted to share some of her life because she felt there are things people could learn.”

Angel’s Special Day is an inspiring story, Janice said. “It speaks to a child being brave with their challenges, it speaks to being bullied, it speaks to parents working with their children to understand the problem and help others. I’m just really proud of her.”

Heather said her journey also has included lots of physical and cognitive therapies. She’s proud to have completed an a18-month certificate program at Columbus State Community College and hopes to find a job where she feels comfortable. She’s devoted to her faith and family, loves scrapbooking, and considers herself “a shopaholic.”

“She has some big goals, and that’s great,” said Anesia Johnson, a direct-support professional who works with Heather and is supporting her efforts to market her book.

Heather says she wants to educate people not only about Tourette syndrome, but about other conditions, too. “Disability is not inability,” she said.

Angel’s Special Day, published by Covenant Books, is available through bookstores or online from Apple iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.