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Stammering & Tourette's Syndrome

Find out all about the link between stammering and Tourette's Syndrome. Read about how to get help and support.

What is Tourette's Syndrome?

Tourette's Syndrome (TS) is when a person has involuntary sounds and movements, or tics. These include: 

  • Shoulder shrugs, eye-blinking or head twitches. 
  • Repeated sounds such a throat clearing or sniffing. 
  • Making a specific noise or repeating words or phrases.
  • Saying rude words or swearing is probably the best-known sign of Tourette's. Although common in adults, this only affects a small number of children.

Tourette's is thought to affect about one per cent of the population. It can affect all races and ethnic groups equally. It typically starts around the age of 6, with very few children developing TS beyond the age of 13. In up to 70% of children with TS, the tics will significantly reduce or diminish by late adolescence.  

Link with stammering

Tourette's Syndrome and stammering share many characteristics. They are both neurological differences. This means that the cause for both lies within the brain. Both have a strong genetic component and both affect more boys than girls.

Like stammering, no two people with TS display precisely the same tic characteristics. Sometimes the vocal tics of children with TS may resemble stammering behaviours. See What Is Stammering? for more information on what stammering is. People in other parts of the world call stammering 'stuttering', but it's the same thing. 

Getting Help for Tourette's

TS can be managed with medication, behavioural management and counselling support.  

If you think your child may be stammering and would like support, speak to your GP. Or you can refer your child yourself to your local NHS speech & language therapist. See our Options for Children & Teenagers page. Or, call our free helpline on 0808 802 0002 or start a webchat and we can help. Both are open weekdays 10am-12noon and 6-8pm.

If possible, see someone who specialises in working with children who stammer.

Support & More Information

Tourette's Action. Call their helpline on 0300 777 8427.

Seek out the book 'Tic Disorders: A Guide for Parents and Professionals'. It's by Uttom Chowdhury and Tara Murphy (2016), Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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