Tourette syndrome

Tourette Syndrome (TS) indicators include muscular tics, vocal or phonic tics, disinhibited thoughts, emotional differences including difficulties in emotional regulation, obsessive compulsions and rituals. Tics, thoughts and compulsions have a habit of occurring when they are least wanted, and purposely trying to repress them can make the urge become stronger and stronger until a release becomes inevitable.

Tics can be divided into two types:  

  • Muscular tics – Rapid and repetitive movements of one muscle group, such as eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, squinting, or facial grimacing, hyperventilating, head nodding, stomach contracting.
  • Vocal tics – Repetitive sounds that can include throat clearing, sniffing, grunting, squeaking, coughing and words or phrases.

 Possible strengths:

  • Excellent musical abilities.
  • Memory capable of almost ‘total recall’.
  • Excellent peripheral perception.
  • Laser-like concentration.

© Matthew Tizzard

People with Tourette Syndrome are not likely to do as well in the education system as neurotypicals and are less likely to go into higher education.

People with TS are likely to suffer environmental, cultural and economical problems. These problems could be prejudice from lecturers and other students, unsuitable learning environments and procedures not tailored for the neurologically diverse. Almost 50% of people with TS will also have ADHD.

Collaborate with student

In many cases the student will approach you and explain about their TS. It is a good idea to formulate a workable plan which takes into account the needs of the student and the course or module requirements.

© Matthew Tizzard


People with TS are likely to have issues with attention in that they attend to everything, including posters, windows, noises from lights, clocks, heating etc. These people learn most effectively in environments with few visual and auditory distractions.


People with TS often tic when they are in situations that can draw unwanted attention. This is quite likely to happen in lectures, workshops and seminars. Tourettists have to tic, and should not be asked to suppress them or to be quiet, as suppression can often result in stronger and more aggressive tics.

Release time

Tourettists may want to leave the room if their tics get too intense. Don’t ask them where they are going as this may cause embarrassment in front of other students. Usually the absence will not be too long. However, if things get too bad the student may not feel able to return.

© Matthew Tizzard

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