Brick Has a Habit of Whispering to Himself in 'The Middle' — We Investigate Why

Every character has their own specific traits, but Brick Heck from ‘The Middle’ has caught the eye of viewers.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Jun. 3 2024, Published 10:05 p.m. ET

Atticus Shaffer as Brick in 'The Middle'
Source: ABC

Ten years ago, any Wednesday night, we’d tune into ABC to watch The Middle. Our favorite family, the Hecks, was growing up with the same everyday struggles we faced and as we grew with them, we loved them more and more. Now, we can stream The Middle on Prime Video or Peacock, and we’ve noticed Brick’s out-of-place behavior.

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Throughout the series, Brick Ishmail Heck (Atticus Shaffer), marches to the beat of his own drum. He has obsessions with reading, writing, and words in general, and he even whispers to himself frequently. So why does Brick whisper to himself in The Middle?

Actor Atticus Shaffer attends ABC's "The Middle" 200th episodes celebration at the Fig & Olive on October 28, 2017
Source: Getty Images
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Brick whispers to himself in ‘The Middle’ because he has verbal tics.

In The Middle, Brick frequently whispers to himself whenever he hears a word or phrase he likes. A Quora user explained that this is likely a verbal tic. “Brick has a tic disorder. It’s a neurological disorder, not a mental illness, and is caused by inherited genetic anomalies … His most common tic, repeating the last words or phrases he spoke in a soft, sort of robotic-sounding voice with his face turned down, is known as palilalia.”

The user claims to have the same sort of tic and explains that it isn't Tourette Syndrome, which incorporates both physical and verbal tics. However, they added that while the character is a good representation of this sort of disorder they “wish they would have incorporated a real explanation for his behavior into the script and also written his role more empathically, instead of portraying him as a ‘weirdo’ even to his own family.”

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Actor Atticus Shaffer admitted that Brick is based on a real person.

While The Middle hints that Brick’s tics come from a tic disorder or even a type of autism, they never outright say what he’s living with. However, he was based on a real person, which is why viewers who also have similar disorders feel that Brick works as a character.

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In 2014, Atticus told Hollywood, “See, the character Brick was based on one of the creator’s sons. He actually whispered from time to time, and therefore it went into the character … Eileen Heisler’s son.” It isn't clear if Eileen’s son also had osteogenesis imperfecta (aka brittle bone syndrome), like Brick and Atticus, but it’s clear that the writers had a lot of empathy when creating the youngest Heck.

Atticus Shaffer at a Disney Junior event
Source: Getty Images

While we may never know exactly why Brick had his verbal tics, it’s possible the Hecks may also never know. The whole idea of The Middle is that they’re a dysfunctional midwestern working-class family, and they might have bigger fish to fry than the perfectly manageable behavior of their young intelligent son.

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