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Tourette’s syndrome

Children in classroom
  • Date published:

  • Author: alexmantle

Tourette’s is a condition that causes people to make involuntary sounds or movements, these are called tics.

The condition is most likely to start in childhood, with symptoms usually improving after a few years and in some cases disappearing completely. There is no cure for Tourette’s syndrome, but treatment is available to manage tics if they are severe. Tics are not usually considered to be harmful to a child’s overall health; but some physical tics can be painful or result in injury, such as sudden movements of the limbs.

Tics usually appear between the ages of two and fourteen, with six being the average onset age. Swearing is often associated with Tourette’s syndrome, but it only affects one in ten people with the condition. Most people with Tourette’s will have a mixture of vocal and physical tics; these might be worse on some days than others and can be aggravated by factors such as anxiety, fatigue and stress.

Vocal tics can include:

  • grunting
  • throat clearing
  • whistling
  • coughing
  • tongue clicking
  • animal sounds
  • saying random words and phrases
  • repeating a sound, word or phrase
  • swearing

Physical tics might include:

  • blinking
  • eye rolling
  • grimacing
  • shoulder shrugging
  • jerking of the head or limbs
  • jumping
  • twirling

If your child starts having tics, you should speak to your GP. Having a tic does not necessarily mean that your child has Tourette’s syndrome, as many children grow out of tics within a few months. However, you should still seek medical advice.

If your child has Tourette’s syndrome or suffers from tics, support is available.

Managing symptoms

Behavioural therapy has been shown to reduce tics in certain patients. This is because many people with Tourette’s syndrome experience a strong urge before a tic, this is known as a premonitory sensation. Premonitory sensations are only relieved once a tic has been carried out. By working out the feelings that trigger tics, trained professionals are often able to support people to reduce the frequency and severity of them.

Behavioural therapy may be available on the NHS; you should discuss this with your GP or healthcare provider. Medicine is not usually offered unless symptoms are particularly severe.

Supporting your child in school

Children with Tourette’s syndrome may be eligible to receive support at school. If your child has been diagnosed with the condition or experiences tics, speak to your school about the assistance they can offer.

The school may be able to make adjustments to support your child’s learning. They might also suggest informing the rest of your child’s class about Tourette’s to help to reduce any misunderstanding or bullying.

As your child grows older, they may also be entitled to support at work and in everyday life. Tourette’s syndrome is considered a disability under UK law, which prohibits people with the condition being discriminated against because of it.

For more information about the help available to young people and their parents, visit Tourette’s Action here.

Useful links

Tourette’s Action

NHS – Tourette’s syndrome