Stories about: Dr. Jeff Waugh

How Tim Froio became a bionic man

deep brain stimulation myoclonus dystonia
Tim (far right) five years ago with his father Jon, mother Cheralyn and brothers Jonathan and Brandon

Timothy Froio has spent his life plagued by sudden, unwanted jerky movements.

“As a baby, he’d drift off to sleep in my arms and then jump, as if he felt like he was falling,” says his mother, Cheralyn. “He would jump so much that his body would stiffen.”

At age 2, putting together Legos, Tim struggled with violent tic-like movements in his upper torso, arms, legs, neck and head. “He’d jerk and the Legos would come apart and go all over,” says Cheralyn.

The same thing happened with his beverages: they’d spill in his face and all over. Unable to control his movements, he once jabbed himself in the face with a beef teriyaki skewer. His cups had to have lids, and he couldn’t button his buttons or tie his shoes. Cheralyn had to hold him down to cut his nails.

Kids weren’t kind to Timothy, who is now 21 and also has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Bullies would punch him to make his movements come out. He became very anxious: after the 9/11 attacks, he stopped eating for a week, thinking his food had been poisoned by terrorists.

Yet, against all odds, Timothy is also an artist. By bracing his non-drawing hand against his face, he calms the movements enough to create clean, highly detailed drawings, as shown in this video.

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