When 13-year-old Bradley Wilinski was told he had Tourette's syndrome, he didn't know what it was. He has become Illinois' youth ambassador.
"I started my first speech ever-- was in third grade because I started making noises. They didn't happen long. It was like three days. Kids were asking why I did it. So, I am like, 'Oh, man. I don't want to talk about this,' but then, I realized once I speak, I spoke in front of the class. Then, they realize that it's OK," Bradley said.
Explaining to people about his disability has never been easy for Bradley, a student at Woodland Middle School.
"Mostly [I] have verbal ticks, which is noise here and there. I flick my hand, maybe, or roll my eyes, but I don't have any right now," he said.
Bradley's mom, Jan, said her son was born with a heart defect that required open heart surgery and also had a stroke.
"Even with Tourette's, depending on the day, the month, or year, you may not ever see anything, but other times, it has been so extreme he couldn't be in school," said Jan.
Despite his medical challenges, Bradley excels in sports
"He is a good athlete," his mother said.
Gym is his favorite class.
"I mean, his physical abilities are absolutely incredible. His motor skills, his cognitive skills, he is very good at listening to instructions," said Mark Schleg, Bradley's P.E. teacher.
Bradley's role model is Ariel Small, a Highland Park resident.
"He plays for football, and he has Tourette's syndrome," Bradley said.
"Once he saw that Ariel went to schools and talked to people, he talked to adults and explained what Tourette's was, I think Bradley really realized what you do is you educate people," said Jan.
"It's not my fault I can't control it," said Bradley.
To learn more about Tourette's syndrome or how you can get young people to come out and speak about it, go to www.tsa-usa.org.