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Life's A Twitch! Celebrating 15 years.
1998 - 2018
Life's A Twitch! Celebrating 15 years.


Ridgetown District High School

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From a very early age Duncan McKinlay came to the conclusion there had to be something wrong with him. It was not a noticeable physical difficulty like an extra arm or third hand sticking out someplace odd. Something like that would have been easy to spot. It was not recognizable as an internal malady, or disease, or anything that could have been given pills or surgery to fix. That would have seemed easy.

He was mostly a normal kid, enjoying things most kids did, but his body was just extra busy. He would constantly fidget and twitch. All the parts moved, and not in unison. He would find the hands and feet making movements on their own, his neck would twist a bit, and maybe worst of all, his voice would make odd and audible noises. He found he could not make it stop. No amount of will power, or fear of reprisals from friends and family would make it stop. Duncan just had to learn to live with it. He had to figure out how to keep even his friends from thinking he was really wird, and his family thinking he was just acting up.

Life was not fun. Miserable and misunderstood, he came to hate any and all social interactions. This meant shying away from team sports, dances, and dating, finding he was more at ease alone, where he did not have to rationalize his odd behaviours. But that can be lonely.

He became pretty good at covering up most of the outbursts. Noises were made into a cough, twitches made into a gesture, or movements were made to disguise the fact he really did not intend to move. He made do. But it was a tough spot for a young kid. Many times he thought that life was not worth living.

When the real problem was finally diagnosed, there was a sense of wonderment, and well as a sense of relief. He was not wierd after all, but he did have something wrong. Although it was not treatable, it could be understood. The problem was Tourette Syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder. This actually placed him in some very good company. Wolfgang Mozart is believed to have suffered from Tourette.

The future path suddenly became clear. Duncan would make that which had been his enemy his life's passion and his life's work. His post-secondary studies were aimed at understanding as much as humanly possible about Tourette Syndrome. Since that time he has worked to make it so no child who suffered as he had would need to be misunderstood in the fight with the syndrome.

Duncan attended McMaster University in Hamilton in 1992, receiving a Merit Scholarship on the way to an Honours B.A. In 1998 he received a Masters of Science in Educational Psychology from the University of Waterloo, where he picked up two awards from the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada: the Richard Stein Memorial Award for improving Quality of Life, and the Todd Axelson Sr. Role Model Award.

Duncan then set his sights on a Ph.D., continuing at Waterloo, with assistance from University of Waterloo Merit Scholarships. Duncan's studies and work in the Tourette field was already widely being noticed. His naturally outgoing personality finally able to flourish, Duncan's work with his own affliction has been the focus of over 50 media profiles, including Reader's Digest, Montel Williams Show, Macleans magazine, BBC, CBC, Global Television, Discovery Channel, and TVOntario. All of these were opportunities to get the message about Tourette Syndrome out to a broader audience. This has led to a number of honours and awards.

Duncan was the inaugural recipient of the McMaster Arch Award, from McMaster alumni, the recipient of the Inaugural "Center of Excellence" award from the Tourettes Syndrome Foundation of Canada, the Sandra D. Lang award for outstanding contributions to children, youth and families from the Ministry of Children/Youth Services. He has been voted the Top Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario, and he has earned a Long Term Volunteer Commitment Award from Hamilton's Extend-A-Family.

Duncan was also the subject of an internationally broadcast multi award winning documentary "Life's A Twitch".

Doctor Duncan has conducted over 500 presentations about Tourette and related disorders, now through his clinic the brilliantly labelled Brake Shop. Duncan's presentations make sure even very young children can relate to someone with mild symptoms as a car having leaky brakes, where they can't put on the brakes and stop the tics and sounds. This makes life easier for those afflicted through understanding from classmates, and teachers who come to know the challenges neurological disorders present.

Dr. Duncan is currently with the Child and Parent Resource Institute in London, where the Brake Shop clinic is run, and keeps up a constant travel schedule of international symposiums, lectures, and workshops to further the knowledge and understanding of Tourette Syndrome and related disorders. He also maintains web sites as resources for those outside his clinical practice area. Duncan serves with the faculties of University of Western Ontario, and University of Guelph. He is a past director of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, and continues his research and his association with many Canadian and International professional groups. And he is still so young.

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Last updated on March 25, 2022

© 1998 - 2020.  Life's A Twitch!® & design are registered trademarks of B. Duncan McKinlay, Ph.D., C.Psych. (Retired)

All activities related to Life's A Twitch!® are conducted by B. Duncan McKinlay, Ph.D., C.Psych. (Retired) in a private capacity and do not represent the Ministry of Children and Youth Services or the Government of Ontario.

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