Imagine being a kid with Tourette syndrome; the muscles in your body and your face seem to have minds of their own, you make noises — sometimes alarmingly loud noises — that you do not intend to make. Perhaps worse than the disease you feel alone; people are scared of you because they don’t understand Tourettes; the adults want to shield their children from you and most of the other kids think you’re weird and funny and, in the school yard, they gather around you and laugh at you and imitate your tics.
An article at CNNHealth.com talks about a special summer camp in Georgia for kids with Tourettes and about the camp director Brad Cohen. Here’s what Brad Cohen remembers from his childhood more than 20 years ago:
“I remember eating lunch at school all by myself and the mean kids would parade around me and mock my noises. My teacher made me get up in front of the class and apologize to everybody for the noises I was making.”
For Brad Cohen the nightmare, the uncontrollable barking and squealing noises he could not control, began in the fifth grade and made his life hell; to this day, at the age of 35, Cohen still “barks” occasionally but something happened to Brad while in Middle School, — at that point in his life when his symptoms were the worst they had ever been — the school principle approached him and asked him if he would like to educate the other students about his condition.
“They gave me a standing ovation, and it was on that day that I realized the power of education. I wanted to be that teacher that I never had. And that was my dream. I wanted to be the teacher that focused on kids’ strengths, not weaknesses.”
And he did that and more — thanks mainly to that one middle school principal who understood the power of education.
Today Brad Cohen is an elementary school teacher, the author of a book about Tourette syndrome and the first director of Camp Twitch and Shout, a week-long summer camp in Georgia for kids from ages 7 to 17 who suffer from Tourettes.
Camp Twitch and Shout offers normal summer camp activities: swimming, fishing, music and arts and crafts but the most important thing about Twitch and Shout is it allows a child who has always felt like an outcast to see that there are many other kids just like him or her and to understand that they are not dysfunctional monsters they are just kids who have a special challenge.
“According to experts, Twitch and Shout is one of only five weeklong camps in the country for children with Tourette syndrome. Atlanta-based child neurologist Howard Schub says such camps help children better cope with their condition. Some campers have never met another kid with Tourette syndrome.”
Read the Article: At Camp Twitch and Shout, Tourette kids can be themselves
And understand more about Tourette Syndrome with this Fact Sheet from The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.