Tourette syndrome is a type of neurological disorder characterised by involuntary tics and repetitive vocalisations. It commonly affects people between the ages of two and 21 years, with the majority of cases occurring in children aged four to 12 years. More boys than girls are affected. Research indicates that as many as one in 100 school children may be affected in Australia.
The cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown, but theories include bacterial infection, abnormalities in the metabolism of brain chemicals and genetic factors. As stress and emotional overexcitement seem to make the condition worse, learning relaxation techniques can help. Whether or not Tourette syndrome is linked to other disorders (such as ADHD) or learning disabilities (such as dyslexia) is still not scientifically proven.
Symptoms of Tourette syndrome
The symptoms of Tourette syndrome can differ from one person to the next, but may include:
A variety of tics, such as eye blinking, shrugging and facial grimace – milder forms of Tourette syndrome can be misdiagnosed, as it often occurs at the same time as ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder and conduct disorders
At least one involuntary vocalisation such as grunting, sniffing or barking that is repeated over and over
'Attacks' of tics and vocalisations, either daily or regularly
Other behavioural or learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or obsessive compulsive behaviour