In March 2016, my daughter Kelsey and I had the pleasure of meeting Brad Cohen at the national Tourette Association of America conference in Arlington, VA. We were exhibitors to showcase Dollars 4 Tic Scholars and our college scholarship program. I had spoken to Brad by phone, but at the conference, we met him in person and heard his captivating keynote address to the parents and children at the conference. His story, about growing up with Tourette Syndrome, just made us want to get to know him better. We bought his book, Front of the Class, and I read it on the drive back home from the conference. It was a great read and was a touching personal story about the roadblocks Brad faced…we highly recommend it!
Currently, Brad and his foundation are gearing up for a Tourette Syndrome conference in Atlanta on June 4. We thought it might be nice to get to know Brad a little better, so we asked him to share some info with us in this “Q&A with Brad Cohen” blog.
D4TS: Brad, as a quick introduction, where were you born, and where do you live now?
Brad: I was born in St. Louis, MO and live in Atlanta, GA now.
D4TS: We read your book and know that it took courage and persistence to get your first teaching job. Now you are an Assistant Principal of an elementary school. Why were you attracted to teaching as a profession?
Brad: I always loved being around kids. They just understood me and I understood them. There is an amazing feeling when you help kids grow up and know you are truly making a difference!
D4TS: Many people who have Tourette Syndrome find that the condition fades as they get older. Yet you are an adult with noticeable tics. Do you ever think that is just not fair?
Brad: Life isn’t fair. At a young age, I had to decide if I wanted to accept my Tourette’s or not. I chose to accept it and make the most out of my life. I have what I have and where ever that leads me, I’ll try to be the best person I can be.
D4TS: Can you give us a quick glimpse into the first time you met someone else who had Tourette Syndrome – and how it felt?
Brad: The first time I met someone else with TS was at a support group when I was in 5th grade. I hated it! There were a bunch of people sitting in a circle complaining about life because they had TS. I left that meeting saying, I don’t want to be that kind of person. It motivated me to stand up to my TS and befriend it.
D4TS: What led you to form the Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation? When did you establish it?
Brad: We established the foundation in 2008 when my movie, Front of the Class, came out. I wanted to use my name to help raise awareness and money for kids with TS.
D4TS: What is the organization’s mission? What gives you the most joy about it?
Brad: The Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation, Inc. (BCTF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) whose aim is to help children who have Tourette Syndrome learn how to exist in the real world with others who don’t understand. We support the socialization, achievement, and education of individuals with Tourette Syndrome and the non-profit/tax-exempt organizations that focus on the needs of those with Tourette Syndrome.
The thing that give me the most joy is knowing that my story continues to inspire others. I know that the money we provide for kids with TS is truly making a difference.
D4TS: How has the BCTF grown or changed or evolved over the years?
Brad: We started off raising money and giving out grants to organizations who do programming for kids with TS. Now, we are in the midst of planning our 3rd annual Atlanta Tourette Syndrome Conference on June 4th.
D4TS: What is the best way for people to find out more about the conference?
D4TS: Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month started Sunday May 15 and goes through June 15. What is something that you would want the public to know about Tourette Syndrome?
Brad: People with TS have lots of strengths….take a moment to get to know the strengths of the people around you.
D4TS: Where can readers find your award-winning book, Front of the Class?
Brad: Bookstores and internet stores across the world! Amazon usually has the best prices.
Be sure to visit the June 4 “Breaking Down the Barriers” conference website to learn more about the great lineup of presenters the Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation has planned!
–Diane Diamantis, D4TS CoFounder