Psychological Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents

A Look at Tourette Syndrome

Published on: June 12, 2013  

A Look at Tourette Syndrome

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder that becomes evident before the age of 18. This disorder is characterized by multiple verbal and motor tics that are frequent, rapid, repetitive and involuntary. The tics can range from simple, like eye blinking, to complicated tics like kicking or touching. Children can also experience verbal tics like grunting or throat clearing though these usually occur with movements. Majority of cases tend to be mild.

What does Tourette Syndrome Look Like?

Sudden and brief intermittent movements or sounds that are called tics, characterize Tourette’s. There are two types of tics, simple and complex. Simple tics are sudden, brief, and repetitive and involve a limited number of muscle groups.  Complex tics are distinct, coordinated patterns of movement involving several muscle groups.

Common simple tics:

  • Eye blinking
  • Head jerking
  • Eye dating
  • Finger flexing
  • Hiccupping yelling throat clearing
  • Grunting

Common complex tics:

  • Touching nose
  • Touching others
  • Smelling objects
  • Flapping arms
  • Kicking
  • Hopping
  • Using differing voice intonations
  • Repeating one’s own words or phrases

Tics will vary in type, frequency, and severity over time and may worsen during stress, illness or excitement.

How is it Diagnosed?

There are no medical tests to diagnose Tourette’s. A diagnosis is made by observing your child’s symptoms and evaluating the history of their onset.

The diagnostic criteria for Tourette’s are:

  1. Both multiple motor and one or more vocal tics have been present at some time, although not necessarily concurrently.
  2. The tics occur many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day or intermittently throughout a period of more than 1 year, and during this period there was never a tic-free period of more than 3 consecutive months.
  3. The onset of the tics is before age 18.
  4. The tics are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

Can Tourette’s be Treated?

There currently is no cure for Tourette syndrome but mild tics do not need to be treated unless they start to interfere with normal life. For more severe cases medications may be prescribed to help control the tics. Consult your child’s physician if you believe your child has a more serious case of Tourette’s to see if medication is right for them.

Helpful Resources
Books for Parents:

Children with Tourette Syndrome: A Parents’ Guide by Tracy Lynne Marsh

Living With Tourette Syndrome by Elaine Fantle Shimberg

Quit It by Marcia Byalick

Books for Children:

I Can’t Stop!: A Story About Tourette Syndrome by Holly L. Niner

Adam and the Magic Marble by Adam Buehrens


Learn more about Tourette Syndrome on the Resources page under Tic Disorders. We also post daily articles on a wide range of topics for parents and teens on Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you suspect your child might have Tourrette Syndrome or another Tic Disorder please give us a call, 360.236.0206.  We’re here to help!

Warmest Regards,

Gyro Psychology Services

Olympia, Washington


866.616.GYRO (4976)

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