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Melville teen to be Tourette Association ambassador

Blaise Urato, shown at his Melville home on

Blaise Urato, shown at his Melville home on Thursday, is a youth ambassador for this year's Tourette Association's National Awareness 5K Run/Walk. Credit: Danielle Silverman

When Blaise Urato was first diagnosed with Tourette syndrome four years ago, hardly anyone he encountered knew much about the neurological disorder.

Now, as an ambassador for the Tourette Association of America, he wants to change that.

“It’s not an uncommon disorder, but a lot of people don’t really know what it is or how it affects people,” he said.

Urato, 18, of Melville, will serve as this year’s ambassador for the National Awareness 5K Run/Walk on Sunday at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Money from the race will be used to fund research and programs that spread awareness of the disorder.

During the past year, Urato has spoken to Hofstra University medical students and children about Tourette syndrome and the tics — involuntary movements or vocalizations — some people with the disorder exhibit.

Urato’s tics include rolling his shoulders, blinking repeatedly, raising his eyebrows and sniffling loudly. He said most people don’t pay much attention to the tics, but may occasionally think he has allergies or could be choking.

His mother, Janice Urato, said she hopes more understanding of the disorder will lead people to be a little kinder.

“People can take it the wrong way and stare quite a bit,” said Janice Urato, 51. “It can be difficult because it’s not something you can ever hide.”

Urato said it can be annoying when people are distracted by the sudden movements or noises he makes.

Going to places of worship or catching a movie can also be problematic, he said. He recently saw “A Quiet Place,” a film about a family endeavoring to live in complete silence, and found the parallels between what was playing out on screen and his struggle to keep quiet in the theater quite amusing, he said, cracking a smile.

Urato said the disorder hasn’t held him back, and he wants others with the disorder to know that, too.

Urato will graduate from Half Hollow Hills High School West this year. He is a linebacker on the school’s football team and plans to attend Farmingdale State College to study aviation to become a pilot someday.

“Keep working hard. And whatever your dreams are, pursue them to the fullest,” Urato said. “Don’t think twice about Tourette’s.”

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