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Understanding the applicability and impact of school behaviour policies on children, young people and adults with Tourette Syndrome or a tic disorder

Posted on 1 February 2024 by Pippa McClounan


A summary of a recent research study supported by TA

Thanks to the engagement of the TS Community, studies like the following are made possible. We're keen on sharing the insights from these research endeavors to showcase the advantages of participation. Please continue reading for a synopsis of 'Understanding the applicability and impact of school behaviour policies on children, young people and adults with Tourette Syndrome or a tic disorder'.


A lay summary of a research study conducted by Keyleigh Baron


When conducting my dissertation study, I looked into understanding the applicability and impact of school behaviour policies on children, young people and adults with Tourette’s Syndrome or a tic disorder. For me to complete this, I read through school behaviour policies in England and created a questionnaire that was then completed by individuals with Neurological Movement Disorders. With the help of these participants, I managed to complete my research and wish to share these key finding with you.

Knowing that the majority of individuals are diagnosed at school age (between 4 and 18) I asked participants to reflect on their experiences. Out of 47 participants, 16 said their teachers had ‘no level of understanding’ regarding their disability and 21 explained they ‘tried to understand’. Similarly, 30 participants explained how their school as a whole had no understanding of their disability and did nothing to help them settle into school. However, 7 participants stated their teachers and school had a ‘good’ understanding of their diagnosis, although out of 47 participants, this number is extremely low.

When asking about school rules and how difficult it was to comply to them due to having Tourette’s syndrome or a tic disorder, 64% had difficulty with sitting still, remaining quiet when asked and found paying attention for a whole lesson hard. They also had difficulty staying in a classroom for a duration of a lesson. Similarly, 40% of participants had difficulty using acceptable language, being neat and tidy and asking for help. All of these are key aspects in behaviour policies across schools in England and students are viewed as ‘defiant’ if they are not followed.

Although I could only complete a small scale study, shockingly 58.33% of participants agreed that they had been punished by teachers for symptomatic behaviour of their Tourette’s syndrome or tic disorder. This is due to teachers following the behaviour policies and having a lack of awareness around Tourette’s syndrome or tic disorder. Therefore, my findings show that many behaviour policy rules are not adjusted for students who cannot follow them due to a disability and that there is a lack of teaching and understanding by teachers, staff and policy makers on the impacts that Tourette’s and tic disorders can have on individual students.

To conclude, I hope my research will shed light on the struggles faced by students, I hope an increase in education on these disabilities will reduce the stigma and misunderstanding and create a better school environment for anyone with a neurological movement disorder. Similarly, I hope my findings will help to create the discussion that behaviour policies need to be more lenient and adaptive to some students. Although equality is fair, these rules should be made with equity in mind that not all students have the ability to follow rules that may seem straightforward to others.

Thank you to everyone that participated in my study, Keyleigh.


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