Different is the New Normal: A Q&A with Ariel and Robin Small

September 13, 2011

Robin Small, American Idol's James Durbin, and Ariel Small (Photo courtesy of John Block)

Different is the New Normal takes a closer look at Tourette Syndrome through the lens of Ariel Small, a teenage boy who grew up with Tourette’s. Small overcomes the difficulties of his condition and inspires others to do the same by raising awareness about Tourette Syndrome as a Youth Ambassador. Here, Ariel and his mother, Robin Small, discuss the film, the future, and embracing differences in order to succeed.

Different is the New Normal airs Thursday, September 15 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Inside Thirteen: Robin, when did you first notice that something was different about Ariel?

Robin Small: Ariel’s Tourette’s started to show itself when he was six.  His first symptoms were facial ticking, blinking, twitching, rolling his eyes and sticking out his tongue.

Different is the New Normal (2011) – Trailer from Hourglass Films on Vimeo.

IT: Are there resources that children with Tourette’s and their parents can turn to that you would recommend?

RS: I would recommend reaching out to every resource available… your local Tourette Syndrome Association chapter, support groups, internet, neurologist, tap into the school’s social worker.  Educate yourself.  Focus on an activity your child likes… sports, music, art.  Focusing on something your child enjoys can release a lot of the built up frustration and tension and help with the ticking.

IT: Ariel, Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself from your experience of growing up with Tourette Syndrome?

Ariel Small: I’ve learned that there really is no limit to what we are capable of. That is, we can use the obstacles we face as a way to strengthen our resolve to reach our true potential.  My Tourettes has simply been a hurdle in my life, and I am sure there will be many more to come.  I have to continue to jump over these hurdles time and again.  I have also learned to have more empathy and insight into other people and what they might be struggling with or going through.

IT: What inspired you to become a Youth Ambassador for Tourette’s?

Photo courtesy of Robin Small

AS: Middle school was a very rough period for me.  I felt as if my disorder was very misunderstood by my teachers and classmates.  I realized that the best thing I could do for myself was to be my own best advocate and educate others.  Education is truly the answer to reducing or eliminating misconception and ignorance.  By speaking to other schools I can help to reduce or eliminate ignorance at a young age and help raise awareness so that no one else will have to go through the same things that I did.

IT: What was it like getting to interview James Durbin from American Idol for the documentary?

AS: Interviewing James Durbin was a dream come true.  I was literally star truck when I met him.  He had such a presence and was so open, honest and genuine.  I felt a connection and was extremely inspired by his courage and perseverance.

IT: What are your plans for the future?

AS: As of right now, my goals are to win conference for football and go far in the playoffs.  I hope to get into the college of my choice.  I plan on majoring in Engineering and hope to join the U.S. Marine Corps to serve my country.

IT: What message do you hope people will take from the film, and are there any misconceptions that you hope the film will clear up?

RS & AS: We hope that this documentary changes people’s perceptions of Tourette Syndrome and will inspire children who are struggling with it.  It is extremely important to separate the person from the disorder.  We are all different and it is these differences that make us unique.  Understanding and empathy are qualities of a successful perspective that will help individuals succeed in life.