Kid Idols! Jaylen Arnold, Teen With Tourettes, Crusades Against Bullying
Jaylen Arnold of Lakeland, Florida, has Tourette Syndrome, Asperger’s and severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That’s more than enough to give anyone pause, but none of that has stopped the “differently-abled” young man from rising above and becoming a visible, high-profile force against bullying.
It all started when Jaylen was little – he was teased and picked-on in school, which led to him creating a series of YouTube videos showing what it was like to live with his maladies. “It was awful. It was very terrifying too. I felt so alone,” said Jaylen in an interview with Fox 13 News. He wanted to use his own experience to inspire others who were also feeling alone.
The teacher put a little sign on Jaylen that said he had a medical condition, Tourette Syndrome. The teacher thought she was helping him, but his parents, Howard and Robin, didn’t see it that way. For Jaylen, it was really embarrassing. “The kids then knew I had something wrong,” Jaylen says. “Before that, they thought my noises and movements were me being a class clown. My condition got so bad that I began (unintentionally) hurting myself with my tics. I didn’t mean to, but my stress and overstimulation was so bad that my tics got very hard and violent.”
Jaylen’s parents always wanted to shield him from what they knew was inevitable bullying, so they sent him to smaller, specialized schools when he was just starting out. But one day, Jaylen decided he wanted to go to larger, regular school. He wanted to be like other kids, and since he was otherwise healthy and had a high IQ, it seemed there was no reason for him not to expand his horizons.
Soon after he enrolled, Jaylen’s disorders were triggered by the added stress… and they got much worse. The other students didn’t understand what Jaylen was going through, nor did they try. Jaylen’s already-uncontrollable tics got bigger and louder. “I was trying so hard to hold them in. I would go to the hall and try to get them out. Eventually, I couldn’t hold them in. It’s like a big sneeze... you can hold it for a few seconds, but then it just blows out really hard. BAM! I was soon ticking all day long. The other kids were mocking and copying my tics.”
Everything turned around when Jaylen decided to face his issues head-on. He created a website and posted videos. He no longer pretended to be the class clown. Today, he’s not bullied, but rather buoyed by thousands of supporters. He’s been on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Nickelodeon’s The Halo Effect, on the cover of Highlights magazine, and he travels across the country visiting schools and spreading his anti-bullying message to kids of all ages. “I think it’s great that these kids are getting the message and being inspired, and that I can share my story with them and help change their lives,” says Jaylen.
He’s just one kid, so Jaylen started an ambassador program, which gives other children the opportunity to spread his message in their own schools. “I tell them to never lose hope.”
Jaylen has certainly made his mom proud. “He has amazed me in every way. And what should have been something that disabled him actually inspired him to inspire hundreds and thousands of other children,” says Jaylen’s mom.
From his efforts, an Internationally recognized charity has formed: Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation. It is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to promoting awareness and prevention of bullying through education and community service.
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