MANTUA — A project brainstormed two years ago by a Syracuse University student from New Jersey and two of her peers has now become a published comic book, perhaps the first in a series meant to empower children who have Tourette syndrome.

The book, "Twitcha," was written and illustrated by Sarah Baldwin, of Mantua, based on ideas developed by Baldwin, Mary Gregorian, of New York, and Julie Nemerson, of Illinois, when all three — each of whom has TS — attended the Tim Howard Leadership Academy at Rutgers University, sponsored by the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders, in 2017.

It follows the titular superhero's journey as she battles the villain Dr. Sitstill (in Baldwin's words, the worst thing you can tell a child with Tourette syndrome is "sit still!") and forges a friendship with Sitstill's erstwhile sidekick Misfire.

Baldwin, Gregorian, and Nemerson all see their TS as a strength, and wanted to convey that up front in the book.

"We never really see Tourette syndrome posed in a positive light as much, so we decided we wanted the superhero to have Tourette syndrome, but we wanted her superpower to be her Tourette syndrome," Baldwin said. "At the end, they're all celebrating uniqueness, and everyone's individuality, and accepting people for who they are."

Baldwin said the creative team behind "Twitcha" recently met with U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J. 2nd District, about the possibility of incorporating the lesson plan that comes along with the book into the curriculum in New Jersey schools. Van Drew plans to speak on the floor of Congress about that proposal, and the book, a speech Baldwin said will be televised on C-SPAN.

She said the best resource for Tourette Syndrome sufferers and their families in the Garden State remains NJCTS, and you can find out more information about that organization at njcts.org.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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