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Neurology Tourette Syndrome Doesn't Stymie Teen
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Tourette Syndrome Doesn't Stymie Teen

Robert Scotty Burford wanted to explain to his fourth-grade classmates why he sometimes screeched unexpectedly during school. Unfortunately, his timing wasn’t very good. The class had recently returned from a visit to Ernie Miller Nature Center in Olathe, Kan. So when Scotty described how tics were the cause of his outbursts, one concerned friend—confusing Scotty’s tics with the ticks she and her classmates had encountered during their nature trip—asked, “Does it hurt when they bite you?”

Scotty’s unusual outbursts were a symptom of a neurological condition called Tourette syndrome that causes individuals to make sounds and movements—tics—that they can’t control. Scotty’s tics have ranged over the years from hocking and harsh exhaling to the screeching he experienced in grade school. As he’s gotten older, the tics have changed to uncontrollable arm jerks, long seconds of extreme blinking and high-pitched squeaking noises.

A Wealth of Expertise in K.C.

When Scotty’s parents, Claudia and Doug, began researching treatment for their son, they found guidance at The Joshua Center for Neurological Disorders in Kansas City, Mo. There, James R. Batterson, MD, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who also works at Children’s Mercy Hospital, began suggesting treatments. Despite their trust in Dr. Batterson, the couple decided to get a second opinion at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. To their relief, Dr. Batterson not only supported their decision but encouraged it. Nevertheless, the two discovered that outside specialists were unnecessary. 

“I realized, ‘Wow! We have fabulous resources right here in Kansas City with Dr. Batterson,’” Claudia says.

She appreciates Dr. Batterson’s expertise, describing him as a “mixture of incredibly smart, very knowledgeable about Tourette and also incredibly compassionate and insightful.” She also appreciates his empathy. “He just really always treats Scotty with such respect,” she explains. “He listens so well. And he’s much more than, ‘Here, have some medicine and go home, and we’ll see you in a couple of months.’”

Pursuing Treatment With an Open Mind

Over the years, under Dr. Batterson’s guidance, Scotty has pursued a variety of treatments to help control his tics. Now in high school, the Mission, Kan., senior says relaxation techniques and medication help the most. But he’s also experimented with alternative medicines, such as chiropractic treatments and, currently, neurobiofeedback. Scotty also gives credit to his blog — MyLifeWithTics.com — which he says allows him to share his story and educate others.

The blog has been such a helpful outlet that Scotty hopes to pursue a career in journalism when he begins attending Kansas State University next year.

A Future Full of Promise

No matter what his future holds, Scotty’s mother knows his journey with Tourette Syndrome is ongoing. But she knows the care he has received at Children’s Mercy and under Dr. Batterson has helped her son live a life that is as normal as possible. “I can’t imagine life without him and the nurses,” she says, adding, “Yeah, I would be the best sales person ever for Children’s Mercy.”

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