Tourette's Syndrome

According to The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties, Touretteā€™s syndrome (TS)  is a movement disorder characterized by repeated, involuntary, rapid movements of various muscle groups in almost any part of the body and by vocal tics such as barking noises, loud grunting, and in some patients, use of loud, improper words or phrases. The syndrome is a lifelong disorder that often begins during adolescence, even though there is no specific test for TS. In order for a person to be diagnosed with TS, one must have both vocal and motor tics before age 18 for more than one year straight.

It is not accurately know how many people have TS in the US, but some studies suggest that 1 out of every 162 children from age 6 to 17 living in the US have some sort of TS spanning from mild to severe forms of the disease.

For more detailed statistics about the TS in the US please click in the button below.

Although the medical community believes that the cause of TS is linked to a dysfunctional basal glangia located in the brain, researchers have not yet accurately established what causes TS.  They believe that in patients with TS there is a malfunction in brain's production and/or use of neurotransmitters.

If you want to know more about neurotransmitters and basal glangia, click over the term.

Research has shown that TS has a hefty genetic component. If one parent has TS each child has a 50% chance of getting the abnormal gene. Yet, not every child with the gene will develop TS. It is an interesting fact that only 7 of every 10 girls who inherit the gene will develop TS, but almost all boys who inherit it will develop some sort of TS (Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine).

People with Tourette's syndrome exhibit motor and vocal tics with different severities varying from simple to complex. Patients with TS have little or no control over these involuntary tics.  Simple tics are abrupt, consisting of brief movements involving a single or a few muscle groups. Complex tics have a defined movement pattern that can involve several muscle groups and usually occur in the same order.  Examples of common vocal tics are sounds or noises that often lack meaning, or repeated words and phrases that can be understood.  Complex tics can be perceptible if, for example, a patient repeatedly moves his head side to side, blinks his eyes, opens his mouth and stretches his neck. TS tics tend to get better or worse in cycles. (Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine)

Although Tourette's syndrome has no cure, many treatments may reduce the severity and frequency of the tics. Some available treatments are:

  * Acupuncture

  * Behavioral treatments

  * Cognitive behavioral therapy

  * Neurofeedback

  * Psychotherapy

  * Relaxation techniques

Teachers need to know that along with Tourette's syndrome, other disabilities are often present in the same student. The most common disabilities that accompany TS are attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and other learning disabilities. Thus, teachers must be willing to accommodate not just TS but also all the other coexisting disabilities.

Teaching a child with TS can be challenging but also rewarding. If a teacher has a student with TS it is the teacher's job to foster a welcoming, safe, and nurturing environment where all students feel comfortable to be themselves. Teachers need to educate the class on what TS is, what it entails, and what they may notice from their classmates with the syndrome. It would be a good idea, with approval from both the student with TS and his parents, for the student to explain to the class how TS affects him.

It is important for the teacher, depending on the student's needs, to reduce distractions, allow plenty of space around the student, and have an agreed upon cue that signals when the student needs to leave the room or see the nurse. During instruction teachers of students with TS need to give clear and concise directions and always try to warn when getting ready to transition.

Tourette Syndrome Association
42-40 Bell Boulevard
Suite 205
Bayside, NY 11361-2820

NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Teens Health


Tourette's Syndrome. (2008). In R. M. Doctor, A. P. Kahn, & C. Adamec, Facts on File Library  of Health and Living. The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties (3rd ed., p. 492). New York: Facts on File. Retrieved from //

Rowland, B., & Frey, R. J. (2014). Tourette Syndrome. In L. J. Fundukian (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (4th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 2410-2413). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from

Comment Stream