Top 5 Things Every Person With A Disability Should Know!

Living with Tourette Syndrome has never been easy, but in my book, Front of the Class, I remind people that just because they have a disability, they can still be successful.

I have come up with the top 5 things that every person with a disability should know.

#5 No excuses, EVER! It is important for people with disabilities to learn to live with it. They need to try and experience life just as a “normal” person would. It may be more challenging, but they shouldn’t be blaming what they can’t do on their disability. There were plenty of people that told me I couldn’t be a teacher. As I came upon obstacles I needed to hurdle over, I never gave the excuse that I couldn’t be a teacher because of Tourette’s. If I couldn’t believe in myself, then how could I get others to believe in me? No excuses. Try hard, if that doesn’t work, try harder. Just try your hardest not to blame what you can’t do on your disability.

#4 Humor, be able to laugh! It is important to sometimes take a step back and be able to laugh. I know having a good sense of humor has really helped me to live with Tourette’s. When my friends see I’m able to laugh about things, it makes it easier for them to talk to me about Tourette’s and they don’t feel awkward. One thing I always tell my students at the beginning of the year is that I’m willing to play all types of games, but not Hide and Seek. I tell them I was never good at that game as the person always finds me because they just listen for me to make a vocal tic. The kids always find that funny.

#3 Become the expert! It is so important that you become familiar with your own medical condition. This is crucial for when others may come up to you and ask what’s wrong with you. This is one of the first things I did once I was diagnosed with Tourette’s. I needed to know everything about Tourette Syndrome that was possible so I had the answers to questions that were asked about me. After I became the expert on Tourette’s, I not only was able to answer questions about my condition, but I also began standing up in front of my classes and educated other students about Tourette’s so they understood why I did the things I did.

#2 Be open and honest with others! It is important for you to remember that not everyone knows your disability. My tics really stand out and can sometimes disturb others. What I have learned is once they are educated about my situation, they leave me alone. If you don’t educate them, then you will leave them wondering what is wrong with you. I look at educating others as an opportunity to teach more people about Tourette’s. Many people are still uneducated about my condition so by me teaching others will hopefully help others with Tourette’s down the road. Although it seems difficult, taking the initiative to educate people will make your life easier in the long run.

#1 Don’t look at your disability as a weakness, see it as an opportunity! It is important for you to never forget that we are all human beings. Just because you are a little different doesn’t mean you should be treated differently. I know it’s easier said than done, but you must dig deep inside yourself and find out what makes you special. Start small and build upon those successes. Growing up, being in a school classroom was so difficult for me. I was never able to be that student that my teachers wanted me to be. In elementary school, I never had a teacher that appreciated me for who I was. All they could see was that I was an annoying kid who made noises all day, everyday. I was looked at as the problem child. But through all those tough times, deep down I knew that I wanted to grow up and be that teacher that I never had. I wanted to be there for students when they needed a teacher the most. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and I knew I could do this based on my own experiences. I turned living with Tourette Syndrome from a weakness into an opportunity. I now stand before elementary school children and try to be that role model I never.

Is there something else you would add to my list?

6 Responses to “Top 5 Things Every Person With A Disability Should Know!”

  1. Stephanie Stry Says:

    Wow Brad!! I really can’t wait to read your book. You always have such a posistive attitude that no one would know all of the struggles and prejeduces that you have gone through. It is an honor to teach with you.

  2. Jerry Edelmans Site Says:

    Laura and I are very happy with your announcement. We can’t wait to read the book and to share it with “Mom Ellen”

  3. Debbie Hochbaum Says:

    I was one of the many who thought of Tourette Syndrome as the “cursing disease”, until I met you. I have learned so much about the disease from you and have also learned how to keep a positive attitude about life … no matter what obstacles are given to you. You have been a great friend and a positive role model to me. I can’t wait to read your book when it comes out!
    Debbie Hochbaum

  4. Linda Says:

    Dear Brad,

    As mom to a child with Asperger’s Syndrome — now a very successful college student (oh, he had many ‘stims’ like tics — when he was young, and I recall one elementary school psychologist who suggested *weighting down his hands*!!! to prevent the flapping…) and another with juvenile diabetes, my heart aches for your struggle. It also swells with pride at your courage and success.

    I have sent them both the link to your blog.

    Best wishes from Massachusetts,

  5. Cory Rubin Says:

    I just watched “Front of the Class” last night on CBS and was touched and inspired. I too have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. I have had many of the same experiences with doctors, teachers, and even parents. I found that being able to laugh at myself and be good humored about life is one of the most important ways to keep upbeat. I have overcome a lot since I was diagnosed at age 7… My parents were afraid to let me drive a car but I have proven to them that not only can I drive but I am a good driver, I spent 4 years in the High School Marching Band, a hobby that was not at all easy because it requires complete focus and to be uniform with the rest of the band, and now I am in college and am interning at CBS and KCAL9 with the goal of becoming an Audio Technician.
    Thank you for being a role model,
    Cory Rubin

  6. Dana Says:

    I too am a mother with our daughter having Asperger’s Syndrome. After being plucked out of First Grade and placed in a school with disabled children, the “fit” wasn’t right. I decided to home school her and after six years she wanted to go back knowing the challenges that lay ahead. She is currently in High School but not as a Ninth grader, but as an “Eighth” grader for failing to pass the DSTP (Delaware’s State Test) in math. The wanted to hold her back, we said no, fought and won. In hindsight, to hold a student that was in Eighth grade honor roll but unable to pass a state test was wrong. Your movie is an inspriation to all who have limited disablities, whether they are in the form of AS, TS or physical. As parents we know when to push and what is in the best interest of our children.

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"Brad Cohen is a walking billboard for the idea of living positively. He is like a cold drink on a hot day--refreshing, energizing, and likely to put a smile on your face."
Tim Shriver - Chairman of Special Olympics

"I have observed the magic of Brad Cohen in the classroom. He has turned Tourette Syndrome into an asset, and his life into inspiration."
Senator Johnny Isakson, Georgia

"Brad Cohen's story is a triumph of hope, determination, will and relentless good humor."
Peter J. Hollenbeck, Ph.D., Professor and
Associate Head of Biological Sciences,
Purdue University

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