Tag Archives: Tourette’s Syndrome

Eating Disorders

Tricolomania: the compulsive pulling out of one’s own hair is a common tic, as is chewing hair and biting one’s own fingernails.  This can result in stomach discomfort and lack of desire to eat.  This may occur in a large percentage of pupils during their school years but it should only be transitory in most cases. If it is prolonged their may be a need to investigate for further problems, e.g. Tourette’s Syndrome.

If a pupil does have an odd eating habit, e.g. picking pieces of fluff off the carpet and eating them, it is best not to tell them off or not to do it, but to explain that it is not good for their stomachs and it would be better to spit it into a hankie rather than swallow it.

Pica: the eating of non-food stuffs. This can be associated with development delay or nutrient deficiency. Keep an eye on what the pupil is eating and check whether he or she does it at home. Is he/she smaller than average? If you are concerned discuss it with parents and perhaps recommend a visit to the doctor.

Teaching pupils with Tourette’s Syndrome

  • Accept the student “as is.” The tic is not deliberate nor an attempt to get attention or disrupt the class. Similarly, other behaviour that is not related should not be excused.
  • Observe and record behaviour on both a short and long term basis.
  • If it is acceptable to parents and the student, explain to the class what Tourette’s syndrome is.
  • Maintain the same expectations for the student as for the rest of the class. A student with Tourette syndrome may sometimes need extra time for assignments or a separate room for tests. The student may have a compulsive ritual, such as setting out materials in a certain order, before beginning an assignment.
  • Use the “buddy” system to help the student overcome difficulties as they arise. A “buddy” is a responsible student who may assist with copying notes, reading, etc.
  • help the student through stressful experiences. Explain in advance what is expected, particularly in timed activities.
  • Give instruction in stages. Too many items to be remembered at one time cause extra stress.
  • Use tape recorders, typewriters or computers for reading and writing problems and untimed exams, in a private room if vocal tics are a problem
  • Allow the student to leave the room whenever the tic becomes overwhelming. If possible provide a “safe place” where the expression of the tic will be less noticeable
  • Give positive and immediate feedback for a task well done or a social situation handled well. With so much of their behaviour socially unacceptable, these students need to know when they are doing well
  • Seat the student, with mutual understanding and agreement, near the back of the room. Older students should seat themselves wherever they feel most comfortable. This not only allows for leaving if necessary, but is less disruptive
  • Establish a classroom atmosphere which is tolerant and accepting. It is important that the teacher serve as a role model for the students in promoting understanding

Further Information

Explaining Tourette’s Syndrome – an idea

Tourette’s Syndrome

  • Usually begins between 5 and 11 with an upper limit of 18
  • Can be suppressed so may appear different in one place (e.g. school)
  • Different degrees of severity; from mild to socially debilitating.
  • 3 times as common in males
  • symptoms can increase or decrease or even go into remission
  • condition usually improves after adolescence

What to look for:

This condition causes sufferers to have an overwhelming compulsion to produce (usually facial) tics or to make or say uncontrolled noises or words. Sometimes the sufferer can be seen to be repeating phrases or mimicking gestures. Often is accompanied by ADHD. In severe cases there is involuntary use of obscenities, either vocal or gestural. This is called coprolalia and about 25% of people with Tourettes have this condition. The symptoms are likely to be at their most pronounced during puberty.

The symptoms of Tourettes are not always present. There can be periods of weeks when no symptoms appear. Some children may also have specific problems with organising work, memory and copying. Copying information quickly and accurately from the blackboard can be particularly difficult. Maths may cause special problems. There may also be difficulty understanding and remembering class work or homework

Case Studies
Teaching Strategies

People who can help: SENCO/Resource

Further Information


Case Study: Tourette’s Syndrome

Image of child (Jason)
Image of child (Jason)

Jason is ten years old.  He appears to have normal ability and enjoys class and the company of his peers.  He does however, find it very hard to stay quiet for more than a few minutes.  He frequently interrupts the teacher by making strange noises or gestures which the other children find amusing.  His class teacher finds this behaviour most annoying, has frequently rebuked him for this but to no effect. She has recently begun to keep a notebook of his behaviour.  One of the targets she has set him in class is to be able to sit quiet and still for at least 15 minutes each hour.  She feels that Jason’s behaviour problems are sufficient to have him labelled as having emotional and behavioural problems and therefore he may need statemented.

Jason’s mother has tried to explain that his problems are due to Tourette’s Syndrome and that Jason is not deliberately disrupting the class. She is concerned that he is now coming home from school distressed and unhappy and is reluctant to go in the morning and is trying to convince the school that all he needs is the opportunity to have a few minute’s time out when he feels the compulsion to have a ‘tic’.

Teaching Strategies