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Tourette Syndrome / Fragile X

Tourette syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by motor and vocal tics. These tics are repetitive involuntary movements that most commonly occur as eye blinks, shoulder shrugs, facial grimaces, or head jerking.

Tourette syndrome is clinically defined as multiple motor or vocal tics that repeatedly occur for longer than one year. Students with Tourette syndrome can exhibit a wide variety of tics which may increase with excitement or under stress. Motor tics can occur in only one part of the body or they may present as full body tics (e.g. jumping, startling). Although frequently portrayed in the media as a key characteristic of Tourette syndrome, the involuntary expression of socially unacceptable language (called coprolalia) is an uncommon symptom of the condition.

Tourette syndrome can be confused with tourettism, which refers to tics in the absence of Tourette syndrome; these tics are often associated with other conditions such as Fragile X syndrome and Klinefelter's syndrome. Both Tourette syndrome and conditions causing tourettism have been associated with learning disabilities; therefore, it is important to examine the possibility of comorbid learning problems when considering accommodations for students with Tourette syndrome or tourettism.

Observing Tourette Syndrome / Fragile X in the Classroom

Faculty might observe the following in students with Tourette Syndrome:

  • May startle easily
  • May require assistance when fine motor skills are required
  • May appear to blink consistently
  • May have unusual speech patterns or have a stutter
  • May exhibit tremors
  • May exhibit facial tics or have spasms of the arms or legs


Related Functional Characteristics

Climate Sensitivity : Students with Tourette syndrome may experience increased frequency of tics from exposure to hot temperatures.

Distracting Behavior : Students with Tourette syndrome may exhibit motor and vocal tics that are noticeable and distracting to other students.

Fatigue (Physical) : Students with Tourette syndrome may experience physical fatigue due to intermittent physical tics, muscle spasms, or medication side effects.

Intelligibility : Students who have vocal tics may have deficits in speech intelligibility if the frequency and severity of the vocal tics interfere with speech production.

Motor Skill (Fine) : Students with Tourette syndrome may experience difficulties with fine motor control due to the muscle spasms or tics that characterize the syndrome.

Pain Management : Tourette syndrome impacts muscles and causes spasms resulting in pain when the student attempts to control muscles to write or do other work requiring fine motor skills.

Production (Verbal) : If vocal and motor tics are frequent, students make have difficulty expressing their thoughts so others can understand them.

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