Tourette's syndrome gained fame as an explanation of people ‘behaving in a funny way’ - specifically exclaiming words like ‘biscuit’ suddenly and inappropriately in public . Sometimes these are rude words like ‘fuck off’ in a crowd again and again without being totally able to stop doing it . But public swearing is actually present in only a small number of people with the problem.
Children with Tourette’s Syndrome tend to have physical ‘tics’ – a ‘tic’ is a sudden and repeated movement like a ‘twitch’. These tics come and go and a person usually knows they are about to happen and so they can, to a certain extent, stop them from happening!
It is inherited in families and appears during childhood but the physical tics tend to come and go, as do the verbal expletives. In fact up to 4 percent of children ages 5 to 18 have some form of Tourette's at one time or another with the more common’ tics’ being eye blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing, and odd movements of the face.
Exactly what causes these is not known, though sometimes medicines can help reduce them. But in most cases just talking to the person who has Tourette’s, explaining what is happening and reassuring them that the tics are quite likely to go away is enough to help.