Information about TS for people working in education
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is not a learning disability but some of the symptoms and co-morbidities can have a substantial impact on a child's ability to learn. It is important that children with TS are properly supported to ensure they achieve to their maximum ability at school.
Tourettes Action knows that many teachers, special education co-ordinators and other education professionals have little experience of the condition and have had no training in how to support somebody with TS. That is why we have put together a range of information to enable you best help your pupils, parents and fellow staff.
What is TS?
TS is an inherited, neurological condition, the key features of which are tics, involuntary and uncontrollable sounds and movements. TS is a complex condition and covers a wide spectrum of symptoms and associated behaviours, including OCD and ADHD. Only 10 per cent of people with TS swear. Each person with TS has different tics and will experience diverse symptoms. There is no cure for TS, but there are various treatments available.
How does TS affect learning?
Approximately one per cent of school children have TS, however most of those will be undiagnosed and many will be unaware they have the condition. Only a very small minority of children with TS need to attend special schools.
TS does not itself affect IQ, but it can have an effect of a child’s ability to learn. For example, writing can be made difficult by movement tics; impulsive traits can manifest as calling out in class; or, concentrating on a lesson can be hard if a child is trying to suppress tics. It is very common for children to suppress their tics in school, so you may not be aware that a child has any symptoms and potential barriers to learning, but many children tic so badly at home that homework and sleep can become real issues.
Steps for supporting a child with TS
When a child is diagnosed with TS, schools should work with parents and the child to ensure the correct support mechanisms are put in place. Teachers should organise a meeting with the parents, including the Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) to discuss the child’s TS and how it affects them.
There are many simple changes that can be made in the classroom to support children with TS, including:
- avoid seating arrangements where tics will cause distractions, such as in the middle of a row;
- offer short breaks if a child is ticcing;
- separate room for state exams such as GCSEs as supressing user brain power; and,
- allow the child longer time to complete timed tests and exams.
Information for teachers
You can find much more information in our documents providing guidance for teachers and education professionals.
- Key facts for teachers – this leaflet gives an overview of TS and how it can affect learning, and outlines key ways to handle TS in the classroom
- What makes us tic – this leaflet explains what TS is
To order copies of these leaflets to hand out in school please email our Helpdesk.
You can also visit the Oasis education website for more information.
Support from Tourettes Action
TA has a range of support for teachers working with children with TS:
Presentations about TS
Our school powerpoint presentations are designed to educated children, parents and staff about the condition.
Advice and advocacy service
TA is happy to talk to schools about the best way of supporting a child with TS. If the situation requires it, we can arrange to visit the school to take part in meetings with parents or to deliver training to staff. There is no charge for this service, but we do ask for a donation of £50 and for travel costs to be covered.
Support for people with TS
TA offers a range of services for people with TS, including identity cards, small grants and regular support groups. We also provide advice for parents on accessing the correct support in school and information for young people about what it means to have TS.
Read more about support for people with TS and their families.