This piece is part two of WestfordCAT’s three-part series on Neurodiversity Celebration Week.
WESTFORD — A “one size fits all” approach to curriculum may neglect the needs of some students, forcing them to seek alternative programs to fit their learning style.
An estimated 350,000-450,000 children and adults are living with Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes tics that range from repetitive physical gestures to uncontrollable vocal and physical behaviors.
Matty Tricca, 19, a student with Tourette syndrome, noted that the condition impacts how he processes information and his education in Westford.
“The way I learn is different from everybody else. I had to force myself to learn the way they [neurotypical students] learn,” Tricca told WestfordCAT in an interview. “College was off the list for me. It was hard to bear [that I couldn’t go].”
He continued, “it was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.”
Tricca, who attended Westford Academy through his junior year, transitioned to the Bay Cove, a facility that promotes special education for students in need of specialized academic programs.
“Because the way they [Bay Cove] did it, their programs were more inclusive. I didn’t want to move [from Westford Academy], but I had to move,” he said.
He continued, “I had a good team [in Westford]. But it was the programs that the school set up that was the problem [for me],” he said. “There were a few programs that I felt discouraged about because they wouldn’t allow non-neurotypical people like me in those programs.”
In a March 13 School Committee meeting, Tricca notes the school experience can become challenging when neurodiverse students are labeled and unable to participate in the same programs as neurotypical students.
Tricca now attends a post-secondary program at the LABBB Education Collaborative while also working as a volunteer at Lowell General Hospital. He says he hopes to become an advocate for neurodiverse students and hopes to educate communities on more inclusive practices.
“No one is perfect, but people have to try to understand and try your hardest to understand,” he said. “No one truly knows except the person living with it.”
Tricca hopes to promote inclusivity and understanding within communities on how to better serve and advocate for the neurodiverse.
“Observe how the person acts and talks and speaks and observe that. Then, hopefully by doing that they’ll find something in their brain that says ‘they get it.’”
He continued. “don’t put labels on people. Some people may think the [neurodiverse] person has behavioral issues, but they don’t. It can just come out.”