BEACON FALLS — Tyler Collodel hates going to the movies.
He might jolt his neck to the right a few times as the plot thickens or clear his throat more than usual during a moment of suspense.
“People are like ‘why are you doing that, why are you making that noise?’” Collodel said. “I’ve become open with saying ‘Hey, it’s just my Tourette’s.’”
The Woodland Regional High School senior and boys basketball captain now wants to put his confidence to use as an advocate.
“When I was younger I was embarrassed by it,” said Collodel, a Prospect resident. “Now that I’m getting older, more mature, I’m able to control it more.”
Collodel was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome when he was 5 years old. He has physical tics, mostly on the right side of his body, and clears his throat frequently.
For his senior project, Collodel wants to raise Tourette’s awareness and host American Idol alum Dave Pittman as a guest speaker.
Pittman, an Arkansas native, spoke about the disorder during his season 9 audition. He only made it through the first round of the competition but continued to use the spotlight to spread awareness, just as Collodel wants to.
“He’s actually really excited to come. Just the amount of energy he has gives me confidence,” Collodel said about the advocate and singer.
Similar to how Pittman’s tics stop while he is singing, Collodel’s tics calm down when he is playing basketball or listening to music.
Outside of school, Collodel works at Champs Sports in the Brass Mill Center where he said he feels welcomed.
“They love me, they accept me,” he said.
Lena Warren, Collodel’s former Spanish teacher, smiled in response to the remark.
“Once you meet Tyler it’s impossible not to love him,” Warren said. “He came in with that idea and we loved it.”
Seniors at Woodland develop projects that demonstrate their passions during their last year of high school.
“The goal is to end your career here as a student with a self-directed activity,” Warren said.
Warren, who is also the co-coordinator of the school’s advisory program, took a special interest in Collodel’s project since her son also has the syndrome. She recalled a time when a stranger became frustrated with her son’s vocal tic.
“She said, ‘That kid won’t cut it out.’ People don’t realize he doesn’t want to be doing it,” she said.
Collodel wants to host a public event featuring Pittman in March. He must raise money for Pittman’s flight, hotel and a donation to the Tourette’s Foundation Society to help search for a cure. Donations to help Collodel with his project are being collected online at www.gofundme.com/u27cv3ck.
Collodel hopes the presentation will encourage people to be more considerate of others.
“I want to change people’s opinions,” Collodel said. “People like us, like me, we’re just normal people.”