1. What challenges did the person with the disability experience as a result of his/her disability? Provide five examples from the book.
First, when Brad developed a new tic of knee-knocking, his father and brother Jeff were annoyed, then aggravated, and, finally, outraged. When he could not stop knocking his knee against Jeff’s and was unable to explain the necessity of his body to behave in that way, his father slapped him across the face (p. 18). Brad began to cry and was embarrassed as well as confused. He was also angry with both himself for not being able to stop knocking his knee and his father for smacking him for something he had no control over. Brad felt frustrated and confused (p. 19).
Second, the author never liked going to school because it was associated with an array of struggles. Reading was one of them. He states that, due to his condition, he was continually distracted internally (p. 23). His attention span is influenced by the broken thoughts and images. Ridicule and mockery were almost expected from his classmates. They were not supportive and understanding Brad until he was at Junior High School. However, he hoped that teachers, as the role models, would be more accepting and compassionate. Unfortunately, everything they were able to produce was scowling faces (p. 26). Such attitude made the author feel lonely, unwanted, and depressed.
Third, Brad’s new medication caused him to gain weight. Children were calling him names, nobody wanted to fellowship with him, and, even, sit next to him at school cafeteria during lunch (p. 42). Continual mockery, harassment, and name-calling increased his level of stress, thus, causing more twitching and tics. His already low self-esteem was close to extinction (p. 39). The feeling of anger often swelled up in him to the point when he wanted to scream, kick, and beat his offenders up (p. 43). Fortunately, he always managed to control that emotion and rise above it.
Fourth, the author was repeatedly beaten up by his classmates. One time, as he was mocked and slapped on his head by a kid on a school bus, everybody who was present joined it (p. 44). The driver noticed the fight but chose to ignore it. When the blows became harder, and Brad could no longer defend himself, the driver broke up the scuffle. He was put into in-school suspension together with the boy who started the fight. He felt rejected, stressed, and upset. Brad could not understand why he was punished for being beaten up.
Finally, the boy refers to the time when he got his first job as “one of the lowest moments in my life” (p. 81). He was hired as a busboy and fired before he could, even, start his job. Brad felt rejected, disappointed, angry, hurt, and admitted to giving up which happened very rarely in his life (p. 82). He cried, surrendered to Tourette syndrome, and let it take over (p. 82). His spirit of a fighter was crushed. His dream of becoming a teacher turned into a mirage.
2. What challenges did the family and/or friends of the person with a disability experience as a result of that person’s disability? Provide five examples from the book.
First, Brad’s family members could not understand why he would not stop behaving the way he did and did not believe him when he said he was not able to. As a result, everybody became frustrated and angry with the boy. When his father took him to Disney World, he became impatiently aggravated about his son’s hyperactivity and never-ending tics (p. 21). Brad’s father was not able to understand and accept him.
Second, the absence of an accurate diagnosis confused both parents. One day, in a grocery, a woman made a remark to the author’s mother that her son was “possessed by the devil” (p. 22). For a while, she considered the idea and thought that God punished her (p. 32). She suffered from extreme guilt and loneliness.
Third, Brad’s mother desperately tried to convey to the teachers what Tourette syndrome was all about. However, they refused to believe her (p. 29). She felt compassion toward her son knowing that he was being humiliated and not accepted by his teachers every day at school. She fought their ignorance fiercely until they, finally, began to listen to her (p. 60).
Fourth, Brad’s friends were mocked and humiliated because of him. Once, when the author was out with his friends at the Tippins restaurant, the manager asked the group to move into a corner because they were disturbing other guests (p. 78). Brad’s friends were humiliated, insulted, and frustrated. They had to experience inconveniences associated with public embarrassment and a corner table.
Finally, Brad’s father admitted that he often felt frustrated about the fact that there was no cure for Tourette syndrome. There was nothing he could do to help his son (p. 198). He felt helpless and sorrowful. He also stated that he was angry with people who were rude to Brad and had to control that emotion in public (p. 199).
3. B. If you have not known a person with this particular disability, what do you now think is most important information for someone else to know about a person with this disability?
The most significant piece of information that people need to know about Tourette syndrome is as follows. Those who have it cannot control or stop behaving the way they do. They make strange noises, twitch, and have tics unintentionally. When they say they cannot help doing what they are doing, we must believe them and not doubt. Suspicion and arguing only intensify the condition and bring damage to such individuals. Brad states that no one in his family believed him when he tried to explain to them that he was not behaving the way he did on purpose. It brought him much pain, suffering, confusion, frustration, and rejection. However, when Brad’s mother said that she believed him, this recognition brought him comfort and assurance and calmed him down (p. 18). Brad also pointed out to the significance of believing when he recalled overhearing his mother’s conversation with his father over the phone. While she recounted all the incidents, Brad was amazed that his behavior was viewed as obnoxious. The reason is that, to him, it was most natural (p. 20). Therefore, when such person tells you that he or she cannot help behaving a specific way, your job is to believe him or her without questioning or arguing.
4. How has reading this book influenced your understanding of this disability?
Although I have heard of Tourette syndrome before, I had no idea what symptoms and characteristics it entailed. Fortunately, this book explained and helped me understand this disability. First, this disorder has no cure and, therefore, is chronic. Second, it is characterized by physical and vocal tics that cannot be controlled or suppressed by a person who experiences them. Third, this state has no adverse effect on intelligence. Brad with his many degrees is a living proof of this truth. Fourth, the people suffering from this syndrome are often mocked and despised which forces them to be withdrawn, lonely, and depressed. It is my responsibility to accept them the way they are and invite to participate in both everyday activities and special events. Fifth, Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder. The tics can become worse when a person feels nervous and knows that he or she is not welcome. I must look past this disability and try to get to know the person behind it. Nobody should be excluded from living and enjoying this life because it belongs to everybody. Sixth, tics and other specifics of the behavior cannot be avoided and are, often, likened to the needs. When explaining Tourette syndrome to his students, Brad compares tics to the necessity to sneeze or yawn or an inability to avoid and suppress the hiccups (p. 124). Finally, tics take an emotional toll on such individuals (p. 215). I must learn to be accepting, loving, compassionate, and understanding these people and the challenges they have to face every day.
5. How do you think reading this book will influence you as a teacher or other service professional?
Through his life-story, Brad has taught me two fundamental things that will help shape and equip me as a teacher: approval and acceptance. He calls these two virtues “the only effective weapons against an endless array of cruelties to which anyone struggling with a disability that is inevitably exposed” (p. 21). However, I believe that everybody, whether with a chronic illness or without it, is in a need of and deserves approval and acceptance. After all, every one of us has a thing (p. 83). For some, it is Tourette syndrome, and, for the others, it is a fear of height or pride. We are all unique and unusual in our ways. Therefore, we have to learn to approve and accept each other if we want to be treated the same way. As a teacher, I am responsible for teaching children to embrace their unusualness instead of shrinking from it (p. 24).
Our society puts labels on people taking a liberty to decide who is acceptable and normal and who is not (p. 25). As much as we are all unusual, we are also normal in our unique ways. My job as an educator is to convey this truth to my students. It is also my duty to redefine self-worth and explain that it is not measured in material things. Our media-driven society is busy while lowering self-esteem day after day. It is my responsibility to inspire it in my students whenever and however possible.
Brad explains that every teacher must remember that, to children at school, they are role models. Their behavior is always observed and copied whether they realize it or not. The educators must be approving, accepting, tolerating, as well as being patient, non-judgmental, and compassionate. If they are not, then, their students should not be expected to be either (p. 29).
I must ensure that my classroom is a safe place where children can learn, relax, and be themselves (p. 29). However, to create this atmosphere of protection and security, I must get to the same level where each child is. I must find out about his or her family situation, his or her dreams, hobbies, interests, talents, skills, and abilities. Every child in the classroom must know that he or she is understood. I must also not forget that kind words of encouragement and “little positive support can mean the world to a young person” (p. 29). These words of affirmation are like seeds that must be nurtured and watered with kindness, acceptance, and approval every day. I must also believe in each one of my pupils and teach them to believe in themselves as well as in the fact that they can make a difference in this world (p. 164).
As a teacher, I must ensure that children celebrate and appreciate their diversity and learn from each other in the classroom. To accomplish this task, daily I must infuse them with confidence that no one is better or worse than other but only different. It is significant to accept an individual as a whole person and not be selective about his or her qualities and abilities (p. 52). Brad states that every human being wants to be liked for being who he or she is (p. 41). His Banana Theory is an excellent and comprehensible illustration for the kids that everybody is different and should not be judged by the outside only (p. 98). The mother of one of Brad’s students called Jacob as an excellent definition of beauty of diversity when she said that Brad taught her children that it was “okay to color outside the lines” (p. 211).
Daily, I want to empower my students to have a positive outlook on life, do their best, and never give up. When they grow up, I would like them to be able to persevere in the face of adversity, never say never (p. 36), and be convinced that there is nothing in this world that they cannot do (p. 51).
As a teacher, I will make it a rule to never dismiss a student from the class without finding out the reason for the behavior first (p. 99). I believe that many educators fail to spend the time to get to know an underlying cause for a distinct behavior. Thus, it is pushing a child further away from themselves when he or she requires support and understanding the most. I remember feeling rejected and misunderstood every time I was dismissed from class. I longed for someone to ask me whether there was something they could do to help me in my situation.
Finally, I will adopt Brad’s philosophy of education (p. 108). I will ensure that race, language, income or difficulties will not stand in the way of teaching my students. They will each have a voice in their process of learning and be offered choices in the classroom. I will be responsible for accommodating every child’s needs to ensure that he or she can learn at the appropriate level. I will communicate with parents and involve them in the lives of their children more.