Teens' documentaries reveal their struggles with being different

22nd May 2009 at 01:00

Twice a week, Jordan Rolfe goes to a local youth club and takes out his frustration on a drum kit.

It is because of these hours spent drumming that the 18-year-old is able to concentrate at school.

Jordan was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome aged 12. The condition affects roughly one in every 100 children. Those affected display uncontrollable tics, such as squealing, grunting and repetitive gestures. Involuntary swearing, the most notorious tic, affects only 15 per cent of Tourette's sufferers.

The Oxfordshire pupil is one of seven school-age winners of a documentary competition run by Mediabox, a joint initiative between Channel 4 and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

In a four-minute film, Conditions, Jordan talks about living with Tourette's and associated attention-deficit problems. In particular, he talks about the difficulties he faced at school. "All I was doing was twitching and making funny noises," he tells the camera. "I was always awake and I couldn't sleep. Basically, I was sat in lessons and I couldn't concentrate." This made him feel "really bad", he said.

He now attends school three days a week. The remaining two days are spent at a local youth centre doing "physical stuff". "It's really fun - I just play games, go to the studio and record music," he said. "If I feel really angry, I just go and bash a set of drums. It helps me calm down."

The other six winning documentaries also look at the lives and personal struggles of individual pupils.

In How to Grieve?, 18-year-old Mary-Kate Smith O'Brien discusses the emotions surrounding the death of her father. She interviews other bereaved pupils.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Hannah Farr discusses growing up with two gay fathers. "I think a lot of people see things in black and white: either you have a normal family, or you just don't," she tells the camera.

And Fern Loh, also 18, examines what it means to be a school geek, interviewing a bookworm, a computer-gamer and a Dr Who fan.

Most admit that they seek out other geeks as friends. "You're all outcasts," one says. "But you all fit."


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