Behavioural problems and learning disabilities

Gilles de la Tourette

What is Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome?

Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome is a hereditary disorder involving tics. A tic is an unwanted, usually short, sudden and repetitive movement or sound. Having a tic doesn’t necessarily mean you have Gilles de la Tourette’s. It is only if you have multiple motor tics (movement tics) and at least one phonic tic (sound tic), which may or may not occur at the same time. The following criteria apply to the tics:

  • They occur daily and several times a day.
  • They have occurred for more than one year.
  • They have never completely disappeared for more than 3 months.
  • They originated before the age of 21.

The first tics usually start around the age of six. They can sometimes start later, but in any case before the age of 21. The tics can continue throughout one’s life. In more than half of the cases, the number and intensity of the tics decreases around puberty. There are many variants of Tourette’s syndrome; each Tourette’s patient has their own unique combination of tics. Many people think that the syndrome is characterised by swearing and name calling, however that idea is not correct. The involuntary use of obscene language mixed with swearing (coprolalia) affects fewer than 10% of people with Tourette’s syndrome.

What causes Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome?

The exact cause of Tourette's syndrome has not yet been established. However, we do know that it involves a hereditary factor. We also know that Tourette’s syndrome has to do with disrupted information transfer in the brain.

Symptoms related to Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome

Two different types of tics occur in patients with Tourette’s syndrome, namely motor tics and phonic tics. A distinction is made between these two types of tics.

Motor tics include:

  • Jerking of the limbs
  • Excessive blinking
  • Eye rolling
  • Grimacing
  • Head shaking

Examples of phonic tics are:

  • Coughing
  • Sniffing
  • Repeating phrases
  • Grunting
  • Throat clearing


Nicky (4) beats speech disorder

During her second visit she already uttered her first words

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