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In 1996, Josh Cutler took his tape recorder to high school, documenting his effort to live a normal life. Today, he also documents his efforts to live a normal life with a brain that often betrays him. (Radio Diaries (left), David Gilkey/NPR)

Teenage Diaries Revisited: Growing Up With Tourette's

May 9, 2013 (All Things Considered)

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In 1996, Josh Cutler took his tape recorder to high school, documenting his effort to live a normal life. Today, he also documents his efforts to live a normal life with a brain that often betrays him. In 1996, Josh Cutler took his tape recorder to high school, documenting his effort to live a normal life. Today, he also documents his efforts to live a normal life with a brain that often betrays him.

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Name: Josh Cutler

Hometown: New York, N.Y.

Current City: New York, N.Y.

Occupation: ESL teacher

Then:

"I look just like a normal person, except after a while you'd realize I don't act much like a normal person."

Josh has Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable tics and verbal outbursts. He took his tape recorder to high school, documenting his efforts to live a normal life. "Girls are a very touchy topic with me," he said. "A lot of the Tourettic things I do seem to drive other people — including girls — away."

Now:

Josh overcame Tourette's enough to become a public school teacher in New York City. But it hasn't been easy for him. He was put on probation by the New York Department of Education two years ago and is currently fighting the charges. Until his case is resolved, Josh's life is in limbo.

On recording his teen audio diary:

"After my story aired [in 1996], even complete strangers from around the country went out of their way to drop me a note. My well-wishers ranged from ordinary people, to a man in prison in Texas, to a young lady named Emily, who also has Tourette's and with whom I still correspond. The lesson I learned from documenting my experience is that in some ways the cold, cruel world is not as cold and cruel as I used to think it was."

Produced for All Things Considered by Joe Richman and Sarah Kate Kramer of Radio Diaries, edited by Deborah George and Ben Shapiro.

You can subscribe to the Radio Diaries podcast at NPR.org.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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