What’s The BIG Deal?

whats-the-big-dealI received an email from a parent of a child with Tourette Syndrome which hits on a huge issue: What’s the big deal?


Here is the letter:
My 9-year-old child was having (in addition to his usual tics) a pretty severe episode of eye tics (rubbing, rolling and blinking) that had been going on for a couple of weeks. His Dad and I were wondering how in the world he could see enough to get anything done!

I asked him one day how things were going in school – I told him that I noticed that he was having a lot of eye tics and that I just wanted to make sure he could see enough to get his work done and learn what he needed to learn.

His response was “I can still hear!”

And that was that – he ran off to play …… his eye tics, as severe as there were, never seemed to phase him – it was as if he was saying that it did not matter if his eyes were ticcing a lot, as long as he could still hear he was cool – always looking on the bright side!!

I hope that he keeps that positive attitude and wonder what as a parent I can do to help him. 

I love this story because it’s a reminder of the resilience that children have no matter what issue that is placed in front of them.

Growing up with TS, I always knew what my “issues” were, but what I quickly noticed was that my “issues” were different then the “issues” my parents, teachers and the public was having. Overall, a child with TS, or any other disability, quickly learns to move on. In this case, the child has severe eye tics and what looks like a huge obstacle in life to the parent, but it wasn’t even an issue to the child. In matter of fact, the child more or less stated that things could be worse and at least he has his hearing.

What a great lesson in life! What is the big deal? You see, there is no big deal for the child because they figured it out. They learned to move forward despite their challenges. But parents want to be parents and protect their child and make sure everything is OK. Parents, continue to do this, but at the same time, give your child the benefit of the doubt.

So, what can parents do for their child? Support them, love them, let them know that you are there for them. And maybe most importantly in this situation, LISTEN
to them. This child stated loud and clear that he is fine and didn’t need their parents help at this time.

The lesson we take away is that children “figure it out and make it work.” Being in the classroom, I’ve had the opportunity to see my students do amazing things. Parents, be careful not to enable your child too much. Allow them to be problem solvers and figure things out for themselves rather than always catching them before they fall. Communication is the key.

The other big idea that the parent realized was about a positive attitude. As I wrote in Front of the Class it is important for children to keep that positive attitude. This is the perfect example of how a positive attitude allowed the child to move forward, instead of holding him back.

Thanks for sharing this conversation with our readers. As you can see, children with special needs just want to be treated like everyone else………even if they can’t see perfectly.


20 Responses to “What’s The BIG Deal?”

  1. Annette Laing Says:

    Brad: Just learned about you and your work with kids here in Georgia. I really applaud your message: Kids are kids and need to be allowed to grow and develop as such, and they offer us all a huge lesson in resilience. If I can ever be of assistance, please let me know.
    Annette Laing

  2. Karen Says:

    Dear Mr. Cohen,

    I just saw the movie “Front of the class” today and your story was very inspiring. I am currently working as a kindergarten teacher and your story has truly taught me some meaningful lessons. Your teaching philosophy as well as your optimism in life is something that many of us should learn from.

    Yours Truly,
    Karen Chen

  3. Professor Pete Post Says:

    Just ended my SPED 315 (Low incidence disabilities) class at Trinity with the video clip from your website and will assign my students to respond to this article. As always, thanks for your education and inspiration – our classrooms will be better for it.

  4. Jessica Says:

    Mr. Cohen,
    Your story is an amazing one! I am a Jr. at Trinity Christian College and am double majoring in Special Education and Elementary Education. It is very inspiring to learn about your story. I have learned a lot from it. I have learned to give every student an equal chance no matter what their disability may be. I also learned never to give up. I admirer that you didn’t give up on your dream of becoming a teacher. This aritcle is really helpful. I want to communicate with my students someday and this article shows the importance of doing that. Also, I want to always have a positive attidude with my furture students. Thanks for being so Inspirational.

  5. Lauren G. Says:

    Mr. Cohen,
    I am a junior at Trinity Christian College and I just want to say your story has truely touched my heart. I wanted to cry when they showed how that teacher sent you to the office and put you in the corner of the classroom. I think what you said in correspondence to the mom in this letter was great! Its true what you said about listening… I definitely think it is good to point out to a child with any disability the things they CAN do. Children in general are told all their life they CAN’T do this until they are a certain age or they CAN’T understand this because they haven’t learned it yet. Kids with disabilities get this a lot more than general education kids and to always hear that you can’t do something is discouraging. Thank you for reaching out and overcoming these issues.

  6. Brie Assink Says:

    Mr. Cohen,
    What a wonderful email and such a great reminder that too often we look at the struggles that enter our lives instead of focusing on our accomplishments! Stories such as your own and this child’s inspire me to look at others in a new light, focusing on what they can do, instead of what they can’t. I completely agree that we should be teaching children to be problem solvers, and not babying them and doing every step for them. I understand this requires more patience, especially at first, but sometimes I have to be able to let my future students tell me when he/she needs help, and let them try things on their own. Also, what you said about having a positive attitude is crucial to remember because it’s so true that our attitude impacts our students tremendously.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us,

  7. Mike Jones Says:

    Adversity comes along and hits everyone at some point throughout their lives, and as this child demonstrates in the above story, the best thing to do is to stay positive and WORK through it. This kid has every reason in the world to be angry, bitter, or even down on himself, but somehow he finds a way to rise above it all and and even teach all of us a lesson in the process; that a positive attitude and strong will can help us ascend to higher levels no matter what kind of adversity comes our way.

  8. Michelle Svendsen Says:

    Mr. Cohen,
    I appreciated hearing your story and the story of the child who looked on the bright side of things and pressed on. That is such a huge lesson for me and for parents who tend to focus on things that go wrong. I also appreciated your comment on how parents should love and support their children, but at the same time, allow them to have a little freedom to figure things out for themselves. This shows children that their parents believe in them and in their ability to achieve things despite certain challenges. Encouragement and support from parents will only push children to accomplish wonderful goals and challenges. This is not only good advice for parents, but also for teachers and future teachers like me. I can take this advice and use it with my students someday. Again, thank you Mr. Cohen for sharing your story. You are an inspiration and an encouragement to many. Blessings to you and your family,

  9. Kathy Hossink Says:

    What an encouraging reminder! It is so true that children are not easily phased. They have a way of adapting and making things work, which is amazing. For this child, the fact that his eye ticks were getting severe wasn’t enough to get him down or discourage him. He is a good example of the fact that parents and teachers of children with disabilities need to keep their expectations high. I think that it’s important to remember that while we need to protect and nurture our children and students, too much of it will only hinder them. Having a disability doesn’t make a student incompetent, and in many cases the child will figure out a way around the disability on his or her own. If we have high expectations of our children, they will have high expectations of themselves. Children have a knack for recognizing when someone doesn’t believe in them. We need to let children explore and give them opportunities to be problem solvers, and we need to believe in them.

  10. Luke S. Says:

    Mr. Cohen,

    Your message about children being able to “figure it out and make it work” is very true. We often times underestimate the capabilities of younger people, at times not on purpose. As a future educator I have to remember this and always try to challenge my students and, after giving them the tools to learn, let them discover and solve problems on their own, because by doing we learn more than just being told how to do something. Also this goes hand in hand with keeping a positive attitude. If someone develops a negative attitude, very quickly they lose the drive to “figure it out and make it work”.

  11. Nikki Coates Says:

    Your story is truly an inspiration. I admire you for continuing your dream even with doubts from some. This can be taken into everyday life. If you truly want something no matter the case you have to fight for it. Some things will not always be handed to you and some will look down upon you but you just have to have faith and believe in your dream and keep trying. It reminds me of the saying ‘fall down 7 times get up 8.’ I truly believe that you can be knocked down numerous of times but if you truly want something you’ll go for it.

    I also loved the story of the little boy who told his mom that he could still hear. It just makes me remember to look at the bright side of everything. As long as your positive nothing can knock you down.

  12. Margaret Miller Says:

    Mr. Cohen,

    We just watched a video clip of your story in class the other day, and it was such an inspiration to see you overcome so much in your life. I really liked the story above because it is so true that parents should not enable their child too much so the children can learn and do things on their own to become more independent. As a future teacher I need to remember that my students are capable of more than people think, and let them figure things out on their own. Something like the eye tics were a real concern for the parent, but the child did not let that affect him and he was always looking on the bright side. In the future I hope that I can encourage all of my students to stay positive no matter what their situation is. It was really nice hearing your story and I hope to read your book in the near future! Thanks for being such an inspiration to so many people!

  13. Melissa Voss Says:

    Mr. Cohen,
    What an inspirational and thought-provoking story. I enjoyed reading the short story and your response because it showed me again the importance of believing in an individual. Often in our society we tend to focus on the lack of abilities or things that we do wrong in our lives. It is vital to look at students in a positive life and believe in their abilities. As a future special education teacher, I was touched by how you shared that children “figure it out and make it work”. In my experiences, so often parents and teachers alike, tend to worry about the disability and how it affects the student/child’s life that we underestimate the student’s abilites. However, like you said, we need to believe in the student and have a positive attitude. Thanks again for sharing this story. Blessings to you and your family.

  14. Laura Roose Says:

    Mr. Cohen,
    This story is a continual reminder that we should always streatch our students. Expect the most out of your students and do not let them take the easy way out. Continue to challenge your students; just because someone may have a learning disability does not mean they cannot learn. Not challenging your students is in itself a learning disability. In order to provide an achievable challenge you are right: “communication is key.” You need to be able to hear what the student can do and then set their goals for a little higher than that. If you are continually presenting a challenge, you will continue to see your students develop!

  15. Rachel VandeKamp Says:

    Mr. Brad Cohen,
    Thanks so much for sharing this story with us! It was a great reminder that we sometimes underestimate the power and strength of a child! As a future educator, this really showed me that I need to give my students time and the confidence they need to figure out these important life lessons on their own. I need to let them find their strength and if they communicate that they need help then I can step in. Until then I need to be there for them and listen and know the difference between them just wanting to talk and them crying out for help. Thanks again I appreciate the reminder!

  16. Kathy Urbanowicz Says:

    Your story was truly inspirational. I really enjoyed the story above because it goes to show that children are resilient and they tend to look at the brighter side of things. Also, it is a great reminder that children will continue to move forward despite the obstacles they have to face. A postive attitude truly goes a long way and this story makes you realize that it is easier to go through life being optimistic rather than pessimistic. Lastly, I agree that parents should LISTEN to their children rather than always assume they need help. Communication is extremely important and parents should allow their children to explore on their own because that is the best way for a child to learn the real world. Thanks again for sharing your story with us!
    Kathy U

  17. Jori Dotson Says:

    Mr. Cohen,
    Your story is truly an amazing one! I am a junior at Trinity Christian College and really enjoyed hearing about your life story in the video clip that we watched in class last week.This story is truly insparational as well. It’s great that this student was able to look past his disabilities and focused more on his abilities. I think as a future teacher it is important to realize that we should emphasize the abilities of the students and help them to realize that every student has potential to learn. It’s important that teachers are able to look past the students disability and help them to become the best student that they can be.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us!

  18. Courtney Kats Says:

    Mr. Cohen,
    Thank you being a great example of strength and perseverance. The story about the 9 year old boy is so refreshing because in today’s world so many people focus on life’s negatives, most of learning disabled children are told what they cant do, but I love the people with a positive attitude who push past that stigma and point out the positives and what they can do. Your story has inspired me as a future teacher to always look for what my students can do, and push them to reach their fullest potential. You are a great inspiration and I hope you continue to educate people about how to look past disabilities.

  19. Megan V. Says:

    Dear Mr. Brad Cohen,
    Thank you so much for posting this encouraging story! It was very inspirational. And it truly is amazing how kids look on the bright side. Sometimes, I think, as adults we tend to just move forward in life and tend to consentrate on the bad side of things. I wish we all would just take a step back in life and look at what we have done so far and look forward to the future to our future accomplishments. I love to see the joy in children’s eyes when they accomplish new things, and my hope is to show this same joy in my life.

  20. Christine Iwema Says:

    I really enjoyed reading how the way children look at things compared
    to adults. A nine-year-old child is asked how he was doing his school
    works and he spits back out that he has more than one sense. I really
    love the attitude that Brad Collen has. It is a wonderful way to see
    that children are able to try things in different ways, adapt and stretch

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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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