Tourette’s, Turrets, Tourects

December 5, 2009

(Just a short comment this time.)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I once read on an IEP that a badly behaved, and occasionally explosive, student that I taught was thought to have “mild Tourects”. More recently, I read on the SEN register that there was a query as to whether a student had “Turrets Syndrome”. As usual I tend to assume that if something happens more than once to me at more than one school then it is probably happening at plenty of other schools too and so it might be worth commenting on.

For those of you who don’t know, Tourette’s syndrome is a neurophysical disorder where people manifest physical or vocal tics. In a minority of cases the tics can take the form of coprolalia, the uncontrollable exclamation of offensive words. There have been a number of television programmes about this type of condition, and it has entered popular culture to the extent where people have heard of the condition but are likely to think it always involves coprolalia. And this is where it gets involved in the SEN racket. Obviously, genuine cases of Tourette’s would, no doubt, be a special need and might need special help in some cases. However, the condition is rare enough that I have never taught a genuine sufferer and it would be pretty low down the list of conditions dealt with by SEN departments in schools. Unfortunately, the idea of people who cannot stop swearing has caught the public imagination. Unfortunately, the SEN systems in many schools are run by people who have neither any academic or medical education in neurophysical disorders, nor the common sense to look up these conditions on Wikipedia before attempting to diagnose them. All it takes is the fact that they have heard on the TV of a condition where people cannot stop swearing but it is not their fault. Now finding excuses for not holding children responsible for their actions is a major part of the purpose of the SEN racket. If you don’t know anything about Tourette’s, not even how to spell it, it sounds like a dream come true. Jordan and Lee didn’t swear at the teacher because she tried to make them work and they didn’t want to and had no fear of the consequences, they did it because they had that condition off of Big Brother.

There is no quality control for IEPs or SEN registers. Any old crap can be put on them. Even misspelt, misinterpreted conditions are acceptable. This is then passed on to teachers. Now some teachers, maybe a minority, read books. We have seen the word “Tourette’s” written down. We even have a rough idea of what it refers to. But we still have to pretend that if we get sworn at it might be a symptom of a condition, not a morally wrong act, because the SEN department has more power than we do. In the process people who have a genuine medical condition are going to be forever associated with badly behaved kids who choose to swear at teachers. There really is a little too much truth in this:


Vodpod videos no longer available.


Cartman’s Diagnosis, posted with vodpod


  1. Thank you for this wonderful post. I am really concerned about the number of students at my school who are labelled with some serious neurological disorder.
    Too easily parents and teachers succumb to the label instead of giving hope to the child that it will be able to cope with a minor flaw or to make up for it by other qualities.
    In the case of Tourette’s Syndrome Wikipedia tells me: “The severity of the tics decreases for most children as they pass through adolescence, and extreme Tourette’s in adulthood is a rarity.”
    The most common tics apparently are eyeblinking and throat clearing.
    If only these tics are perceived, I don’t see any sense in labelling a child. These tics are just a minor nuisance compared to the flaws that can be the result of failure by parents or poor education at school.

  2. Hilarious and bang on the money. I have had a few battles with SEN depts over the years.

    I once had a kid who didnt need to ‘contribute in class due to esteem issues’. It was on his IEP. Of course this shyness didnt prevent him being a right royal pain in the ass.

    Another time I had 2 kids who were supposed to use laptops for everything because according to the IEPS they felt happier that way. Can you beleive that? And I was supposed to teach them maths?

    So I put my foot down and said I wouldnt let them in my class till they wrote on paper. Of course mummy, SENCO & Head tried to bully me but I called their bluff, dug my heels in and in the end I won mostly due to the boys not liking being seperated. And guess what- the kids could write fine on paper. They got a B and C which was above their TMGs and never once used their blessed laptops for the exams or lessons.

    Lastly, every school I have worked at has at least one kid who is untouchable. They often carry a special SEN ‘timeout’ card and woe betide any teacher that crosses that kid. Because that kid could shove a table leg up your backside and set fire to you sure in the knowledge that you will end up apologising to him for not undestanding his learning needs as prescribed in those infernal IEPs.

  3. The woman in charge of the SEN department at our school, who has never taught a lesson in her life and has no medical background, seems to be going out of her way lately to excuse outrageous behaviour by labelling all of the disruptive kids with ADHD. If it is not that, she is blaming their outbursts on problems in the home, self-esteem issues, etc. Some of these cases will be genuine but, while I have no medical training myself, it seems clear to me that some of the so-called diagnoses are well wide of the mark but they are never questioned or checked. This, in turn, devalues the needs of the children who are dealing with genuine conditions and issues.

  4. So perhaps we ought to rename the syndrome that these little herberts are suffering from “Lying Like a Flat Fish Syndrome”.

  5. Well said! Give a kid a label and they’ll live up to it.

    I’m fed up with being told that a kid has ADHD, when really the only problem with him/her is that they’ve not been brought up to understand the word “no”.

    And surely, the number of kids that acquire such labels devalues the needs of those kids who geniunely need extra help.

  6. “Now finding excuses for not holding children responsible for their actions is a major part of the purpose of the SEN racket.”

    Amen to that. I sat through a PSP meeting (not involving the console sadly) for a boy who had recently hit the headteacher. Once Dad calmed down he revealed that he too had been permenantly excluded from school for hitting his headteacher (and from the school after that). He suggested that he might have dsylexia, and his son too.

    Oh how happy everyone became! Of course, he has dyslexia! Forgot all about the negligent and aggressive parents with criminal records, we’ve nailed it. I tried to explain to the Senco I have heard the boy read aloud and fluently , but was ignored.

  7. I’m not a doctor, so wonder if a symptom of dyslexia is hitting people?

    Sorry. I phrased that badly. I’m not a doctor, so know that a symptom of dyslexia is hitting people.

  8. there is no f***ing thing as Tourettes you bunch of t*****rs. Now where is my APP file? (as far as Im concerned APP is a 4 letter word) (did I mention im innumerate too)

  9. I knew you had problems with SEN, but this is ridiculous. At least here we have proper ed psych consulting for these propblems. A lot of teachers say silly things about some students, having no expertise in diagnosing, OK recognising, ADHD, autism and the like. But no matter how much we grumble about being on the waiting list for 18 months, it’s streets ahead of this rubbish.

    Tourette’s, autism and all serious neurobiological disorders must be treated by specialist professionals. I wouldn’t mind your system so much if these “diagnoses” resulted in direct referral to appropriate therapists. Schools would then just be stepping in where parents had failed to deal with a medical problem. And it’s clear the area authorities know that it’s nonsense, otherwise they’d insist you refer on, just as they’d get stuck into a school that didn’t call an ambulance for a broken leg.

  10. Andrew, thankyou for spelling it out! The SEN department at our last school were the people diagnosing these kids, and none of them had medical training. Once these kids were made untouchable any hope of teaching them vanished.
    Why in the name of jebus do we have unqualified people diagnosing medical conditions?!?!?! it’s pretty much the same as googling to find out what that lump on your arm is only to declare you have cancer and have 6 months to live (lumps are pretty damn common from fatty deposits to blocked glands).

  11. A few years ago, when ADHD was coming to people’s attention in the press, a woman gave evidence in court in Blackpool in support of her son. She claimed that he had Attention Deficit Disorder because she had a busy life and didn’t pay him enough ATTENTION!

    I get loads of pupils claiming to have Tourettes: I tell them that I’ve never noticed their nervous tics. I then point out what the diagnosis would be if they suffered from involuntary swearing and since they’ve never heard of it, I can safely accuse them of making it all up.

  12. i’m lying :)
    hahahah that’s a terrets right?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: