Tourette’s Syndrome is a neurological condition characterised by a combination of involuntary and repeated movements and sounds – referred to as tics. It usually starts during childhood and for over half of those affected symptoms will continue into adulthood. A large proportion of people with Tourette’s syndrome will also have other conditions, the most common of which are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
There are 4 main categories of tics
Simple Motor Tics
- Eye blinking, head jerking, shoulder shrugging, nose twitching, teeth grinding, eye rolling, and facial grimacing.
Simple Sound tics
- Throat clearing, yelping, grunting, squeaking, sniffing, coughing and tongue clicking.
Complex Motor Tics
- Jumping, touching other people or things, copying other people, smelling, twirling and sometimes hitting or biting oneself.
Complex Sound Tics
- Uttering words or phrases out of context, swearing loudly or shouting inappropriate words and phrases, repeating a sound, word or phrase just heard.
Most people diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome have a combination of all types of tic, which may change over time. The tics can also vary depending on how they are feeling; perhaps worse when stressed anxious, ill or excited and perhaps better if enjoying or concentrating on a task.
The tics are involuntary, meaning that they are not deliberate and people cannot help letting them out. Most people can suppress their tics for a short time, but this can be very draining. Eventually the tics will come out, and are likely to be even stronger or come in a big “release”. Most people with Tourette’s experience premonitory sensations, which are uncomfortable or unusual feelings before having a tic. The tics are unlikely to cause long-term health issues but people can experience pain from a sudden movement and have disturbed sleep. However, many people with Tourette’s experience social and emotional effects such as low self-esteem, bullying and isolation.
Things to consider for managers and colleagues
- Discuss with the staff member whether or not they have any specific triggers such as foods, chemicals, noise or light, and help them to plan to avoid them;
- Offer support with managing stress levels e.g. help with planning and organisation, including breaking down tasks into smaller steps;
- Talk through any potential changes to routine or work arrangements in advance and offer support and reassurance;
- Encourage them to talk about any concerns with a friend, family member, or work colleague;
- Discuss with the staff member whether or not relaxation techniques and deep breathing may be of benefit;
- Discuss ways to improve general health and sleep patterns;
- Advise taking regular breaks from tasks, getting up and walking around;
- Regular exercise can release excess energy, so consider whether they can adjust their working pattern to accommodate this;
- Work with the staff member to find a quiet space to work free from distractions and noise;
- Discuss if, when and how they want to tell others about their condition