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Documentary Review: Different is the New Normal: Living a Life with Tourette’s

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Different is the New Normal: Living a Life with Tourette’s is a 60-minute documentary premiering September 15 at 8 p.m. EST on THIRTEEN, about the story of 17-year-old Ariel Small, who was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome as a child. The film reveals an inside look at Ariel’s life growing up with Tourette’s and how he’s turned what everyone deemed a negative into a life-changing positive.

At age six, Ariel was exhibiting physical tics with his eyes and mouth. After taking him to a pediatrician and other doctors, the family took him to see a neurologist, and within minutes Ariel was diagnosed with Tourette’s.

Ariel is interviewed by his mother, Robin Small (also the film’s Executive Producer) about how Tourette’s has really affected his life. He speaks out about his tics, his darker moments when he contemplated suicide, and becoming a Youth Ambassador for the Tourette Syndrome Association, which allows him to educate and advocate for the disorder.

A definite highlight of the film is Ariel’s sit-down interview with one of the breakoutJames Durbin & Ariel Small - credit: thirteen.org/pressroom stars from season 10 of American Idol, 22-year-old James Durbin, who was also diagnosed with Tourette’s when he was a child.

The singer revealed that he had been bullied to the point that he changed schools a couple of different times before dropping out altogether.

James also shared that he was worried that his disorder would keep him from achieving his dreams, after initially trying out for American Idol during season eight and not making it past the cattle call round.

“I was just so stressed, you know, and my tics were going crazy,” James told Ariel during their interview.

It’s a very touching moment between the two, and it’s also the scene in which the title of the documentary is taken from, when James tells Ariel, “Different is the new normal.”

I found the film to be extremely informative. A lot of people have misconceived notions about what Tourette’s is, so the film includes a bit of history about the neurobiological disorder, as well as addressing popular misconceptions. I think anyone and everyone would benefit from watching this film and getting a first-hand look at a disorder that affects over 200,000 lives.

The documentary was produced, directed, and written by John Block. Matt Wechsler also produced, edited, and did the cinematography on the film. The narrator is Edie Magnus.

Different is the New Normal: Living a Life with Tourette’s premieres Thursday, September 15 at 8 p.m. EST on THIRTEEN and Tuesday, September 27 at 10:30 p.m. EST on WLIW21. The documentary will be available for a limited time for national viewing at watch.thirteen.org.

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

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.
  • Mary K. Sullivan

    Very moving story. Totally informative. Big THANK YOU to Robin and David for putting this together. And of course Ariel. God Bless!

  • Sheila from Kentucky

    Our family is widely affected by Tourette Syndrome and I’m so excited to see this film. My sister grew up with TS & OCD and no doctor was able to put a name to her condition. She was considered a nervous/high strung child and she suffered through many years of just feeling crazy. When my son began to have tics, I started researching what could possibly be going on. It didn’t take long for me to figure out what it must be and to finally put a name to what had affected by sister her whole life as well. I cannot say enough thank you’s to your son and your family for putting your story out there to help others and to help the rest of us educate others. We are not in a city that is airing this movie as of yet, but will try to watch it via the internet. My son is a super kid and needs other young people that he can look up to that are like him. He is a musician and has entered and won many contests already and when James Durbin appeared on American Idol it made his dreams seem possible as well. Thank you James for being you!! We loved watching you and will continue to follow your career.

  • Gilda

    An inspiring story