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Cohen: Living with tourettes

“I have a story. I have a story that I think that each and every one of you need to hear,” said Brad Cohen, educator and author, as he addressed a group of K-12 teachers in Troy Monday.

Author of “Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had, was the keynote speaker to the one-day seminar for K-12 teachers and education students.

Sponsored by the Southeast Alabama Regional Inservice Center, educators and students were captivated by the energetic speaker sharing his story during the professional workshop at Learning Fest 2010 in Claudia Crosby Theater at Troy University.

“I was flipping channels on a Sunday afternoon and just came across his movie, and I watched it and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s just a wonderful story.’ I looked up his name on the Internet and found that he was a speaker, and I e-mailed him,” said Terry White, program development specialist for Southeast Alabama Regional Inservice Center. “Fifteen minutes later he e-mailed me back and said that he would love to come.”

Cohen spoke of times of ridicule and mockery because Tourette Syndrome caused him to make involuntary movements and sounds called tics.

After being diagnosed in the fourth grade, he embraced the fact that he has the disability and now works to educate anyone that will listen on the subject matter.

“On that day, I realized the power of education,” said Cohen. “The hardest thing about living with Tourette Syndrome is ignorance. There are people who don’t know and don’t want to know.”

Cohen has gone a step further than teaching the second grade — he started a week long summer camp called Camp Twitch and Shout. He also created the Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation that helps with funding of camps nation-wide.

“Many of the teachers have seen (his) movie or read (his) book or some may not have never heard of him, but he has such a good message that every child can learn, even those students that are not so easy to teach,” White said.

Students and teachers came to hear his story and left with much more than a lesson in Tourette Syndrome.

“It doesn’t matter what the child is suffering from, or what disability that they may have, you can still make a difference in their life,” said Esther Torres, a Troy graduate student from Kenya.

“You never know, you could be the last one in their life and all they need is just an encouraging word.”

Educators took the things that they learned from the seminar about the struggles of Tourette Syndrome and applied it to other aspects of education for children with disabilities.

“I never actually encountered a child with Tourette Syndrome,” said Jeneena Swanson, a Troy graduate student from Dallas, Texas. “I like how he touched on other issues like ADHD. I think that just the things he said could be used for anyone with special needs.”

Cohen challenged listeners to be that one instructor that will go the extra mile of the importance of being relentless even when it takes longer than expected to get the desired results.

“Be persistent in all that you do. Everybody has problems and issues, but if you work with people and think outside the box, you never know who you can help,” said Courtney Griggs, a senior English and language arts major.