Tourette Syndrome in the Classroom

Chris Gaydon, Staff Writer

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Tourette Syndrome, or Tourette’s, is a neurological disorder that causes tics, involuntary and uncontrollable sounds and movements. Tourette Syndrome is a rather complex condition and is often seen alongside other, more common disorders such as ADHD and OCD. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Tourette Syndrome, but certain treatments are available.

According to the CDC, only one out of every 162 children between six and seventeen in the United States have Tourette Syndrome (roughly 0.6%). It’s far from a common condition. However, as these tics are involuntary, if there happens to be an individual with Tourette Syndrome in a classroom, they may tic at inopportune times and potentially distract other students. For example, Tourette Association of America recorded a case of a young boy yelling out a derogatory term for women every time a girl answered a question. This no doubt could be distracting and possibly even offensive to the other students in the classroom, inhibiting their ability to learn.

The best solution to these distractions would ultimately be to stop the student’s tics. However, as there is no “cure” for Tourette Syndrome, it isn’t possible to completely stop the tics. However, most individuals tend to tic more frequently as attention is drawn to the tic. Telling them not to tic can inadvertently cause them to tic even more. The best course of action is to ignore the tics entirely and to continue as if they never happened.

Of course, there are other contributing factors aside from excess attention. Tics frequently worsen with stress, exhaustion, and anxiety. Keeping the classroom calm, comfortable, and stress-free will always help reduce the frequency of tics.

Educating the rest of the class is another important option, as it can help other students understand what an individual afflicted with Tourette Syndrome deals with. This, in turn, can help prevent any bullying or harassment that might accompany their various tics, therefore reducing stress and anxiety.

In the end, a student with Tourette Syndrome could be a distraction, or they could be a unique addition to the classroom. It all depends on how the situation is handled.

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