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Tourette syndrome (TS) usually starts in childhood, around the age of 7.

The first symptoms of Tourette syndrome are usually facial tics such as rapid blinking or twitches of the mouth, but TS may start with sounds such as throat clearing and sniffing, or even with multiple tics of movement and sounds.

Choosing a school for children with TS

There is no such thing as the perfect school for children with TS, but there are some things that you can do to help your child and the school.

  • Safety: look for a school that has a robust approach to ensuring all children feel safe and valued. 
  • Communication: provide the school with as much information as possible about TS. This can be obtained from Tourettes Action.
  • Cater for individual needs. Satisfy yourself that the school is willing to accommodate the needs of a child with TS; this may involve giving extra time to finish some work, allowing them to leave lessons if tics become too bad and ensuring other children understand TS.
  • Bullying: many children with TS can feel isolated and/or bullied because of their tics - ask the school how they deal with bullying in general and how they will support your child as an individual.
  • A home-school partnership is the key to success - you will need to work with the school. You certainly know your child better and you may know more about TS than they do, so the learning process and communication should be two-way.

Tourette syndrome explained

With thanks to Tourettes Action

It is a common misconception that all people with TS swear involuntarily. In fact this symptom of TS, known as coprolalia, only affects around 10 to 15 per cent of TS sufferers.

Tourette syndrome is a recognised medical condition, which is often inherited, but the cause is not yet understood. There are treatments, but there is no cure. It is a very complex condition and can be described, with equal accuracy, as a movement disorder, a neurological condition, or a neuro-psychiatric condition.

TS is four times more common in boys than in girls and is thought to affect one in 100 people. The symptoms of TS are tics, involuntary repeated movements and sounds.

For TS to be diagnosed, both motor (movement) and vocal tics would need to be present for a minimum of 12 months, although there can be breaks of up to three months with no tics at all. Attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) often occur with TS.  

There are medications which can help control the tics when they cause problems. However, while they may be very successful in some cases, they don’t work for everybody, or they may have undesirable side effects such as weight gain and tiredness.


Tics are movements or sounds that are repeated over and over again – anything from eye blinking to obscene words. They are involuntary: sufferers describe tics as compelling – if they don’t do them they don’t ‘feel right’. The problem may be transient and cause no ill effect, or be chronic and/or multiple. There are no diagnostic tests, and it is common for the tics to disappear as soon as the doctor is consulted and return again straight afterwards. There are physical problems associated with tics: a tic in the arm a sufferer writes with will adversely affect handwriting; eye rolling or head nodding tics can make reading difficult.

It is possible for a person with TS to suppress their tics for a limited period of time, but eventually the tics have to come out. In class a TS sufferer may suppress a grunting tic, but in effect this creates a backlog of tics.

External help 

Tourettes Action (formerly Tourette Syndrome Association) is the UK’s leading support and research charity for people with Tourette syndrome (TS). It is a registered charity providing information to individuals, professionals and to agencies in the fields of health care, education and government. They are dedicated to: promoting medical research; educating, informing and campaigning about TS; and providing support to help people, and their families, cope with the problems that occur with TS.

Tourettes Action
Kings Court
91 - 93 High Street
GU15 3RN

Helpdesk: 0300 777 8427 Web: E-mail: [email protected]

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