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Motivational Speaker Gives Voice to Nonverbal Teen

October 19, 2017 11:09 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- A Rochester motivational speaker is using his experience growing up with a disability to educate others about what it's like and how to treat others with respect.

Ben Cockram, who has Cerebral palsy, spoke to a group of Lake Mills Community School students Thursday, describing ife as a deck of cards and saying everyone has to play the cards they're dealt, whatever they may be.

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Cockram used the analogy to highlight the need to focus on what individuals can do, instead of what they can't do.

"If you stay in this section," he said, gesturing to a slide with a list of jobs he couldn't physically do, "You'll be stuck where you are for your whole life, and in my opinion, that's not a life. Let me show you what I CAN do."

And with October being National Bullying Prevention Month, his speech is that much more timely.

"Bullying wasn't really a term that was used when I was a kid. It was how life was, we had them. I was bullied, but you deal with it," Cockram said.

He found out the best way for him to combat bullies was to make them laugh, which is where he developed the sense of humor that was fully on display during his presentation.

One of the people responsible for bringing Cockram to Lake Mills was Dawn Olson, whose 18-year-old son Jacob is a student at the school. Jacob, who is nonverbal, is sometimes treated as if he's not even there, she said.

"When he walks down the hall, he's invisible in my opinion. And not even his peers say hi to him at all," Olson said.

So when she and Jacob met Cockram at a Christian camp about a year ago, she knew his message was important enough for others in the school to hear.

"When he's walking in the hallways, it'd be nice for [other kids] to see him as a person and not judge him by the cover of a book," she said.

That sentiment is echoed by Cockram himself.

"If I came back in a year, I'd love to see that no student here is invisible, that students can walk down the hall whether they're verbal, nonverbal, doesn't matter. We all deserve respect," he said.


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