Tourette Syndrome is a disorder involving involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. Movement tics are usually brief, repeating and can affect any part of the body. Vocal tics can vary from simple sounds to speech.
Tourette Syndrome or Tourette's as it is also known, begins in childhood with symptoms generally appearing from about 7 years of age. It is a life-long condition though often improves at the end of adolescence. The tics experienced by an individual may change and be replaced over time and there may be periods of greater or lesser intensity in the presentation of symptoms. This is sometimes referred to as waxing and waning.
Tourette Syndrome is diagnosed when motor and vocal tic symptoms have been present for at least a year. As tics can wax and wane diagnosis can be made even if symptoms are not continuous as long as their absence is no greater than 3 months. It affects more males than females with a ratio of about 3.5 to 1. Current incidence is considered to be 1% of the population though most individuals experience only mild symptoms and do not require any additional support.
Simple motor tics include:
More complex movement tics include:
touching other people or objects
hitting or biting themselves
jumping or spinning
Sometimes these movements can appear ritualised and performance of them is both obsessive and compulsive.
Simple vocal tics include:
clearing the throat
clicking the tongue
There is a common public misconception associating Tourette Syndrome with uncontrolled swearing. Though this can occur with Tourette's it happens in only a very small proportion of those diagnosed with the condition.
Children with Tourette Syndrome, particularly where there is some co-morbidity with other conditions, can often experience both academic and social difficulties in school:
Attention and concentration in lessons
Working under pressure in tests and exams
Specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyscalculia
Anger and rage
Vulnerable to teasing and bullying
Withdrawl and isolation
Negative relationships with school staff