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Tourette's Syndrome

What is a Tourette's Syndrome, and how to support people with Tourette's at work.

Last updated: 02 October 2023

What is Tourette's Syndrome?

Tourette's Syndrome is a neurological condition that affects a person's ability to control their movements and sounds.

It is characterised by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. Tics can range from mild to severe and can include simple tics, such as eye blinking or throat clearing, or complex tics, such as jumping, touching objects or making repetitive noises.

Tourette's syndrome typically starts in childhood and may be accompanied by other behavioural or neurological symptoms, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or learning disabilities.

How to support colleagues with Tourette's Syndrome

Here are some ways you can support a colleague with Tourette's Syndrome:

  1. Educate yourself about Tourette's Syndrome. It will help you better understand your colleague's condition and how it may impact them. Never assume what they may need. Be aware of their specific challenges and strengths - ask them if/how you can help.
  2. Ignore tics unless a person specifically says, otherwise ignore tics when they arise. Not reacting to them or not letting them bother you is the best thing to do.  
  3. Get permission before asking a colleague to read information aloud, present in front of peers, write on a whiteboard, or take minutes in a meeting without prior agreement always get their permission first. 
  4. Respect their boundaries and understand that their symptoms may fluctuate over time. Some days tics can be more significant than others, which means your colleague will use a lot of energy. Allow an open space for your colleague to come to you and request time to recoup. Be sensitive to their needs and communicate with them to find out what you can do to support them.
  5. Be patient and understand that your colleague may have tics or other symptoms that are beyond their control. Be patient, empathetic, and understanding, and don't draw attention to their symptoms.
  6. Offer help to help your colleague with any tasks that may be difficult for them. This could include helping them with physical work (depending on the nature of their tics), or checking in with your colleague before a meeting to see if their tics are okay. If they confirm their tics are bad, offer to step in so they don’t have to attend.
  7. Create a safe and comfortable environment for your colleague to work in. This could include ensuring they have enough space to move around freely or providing them with either a quiet space, or a space on their own (for when their tics get bad) if needed.
  8. Be inclusive and make sure your colleague feels included and valued. Encourage others to treat them with respect and kindness.
  9. Be an ally and don’t allow bullying or unkind comments said to your colleague to go unchallenged, whether this be internally or externally from your company. Make it clear to your colleague that you will back them if ever such situations arise.  
  10. Don't make assumptions that your colleague can't do something because of their Tourette's. Talk to them, find out what they can and can't do, and work together to find solutions.

Further resources on Tourette's Syndrome

The contents of this page was provided by Tristan Hunt.

About the author

Tristan HuntTristan Hunt is a renowned Music Industry ADHD Coach, working with Grammy-nominated, Mobo & Brit Award-winning artists and top brands like Pioneer DJ, BIMM, and Sony Music UK. A former AFEM Regional Manager, Tristan's two decades in the music industry and his personal experience with ADHD, dyslexia, and dyscalculia make him a trusted coach for artists and professionals with ADHD.

Certified as a Transformational Coach with specialized ADHD training, he is part of Sony Music UK’s coaching pool. He also has associations with industry giants like Lateral Mgmt and Infectious PR. His contributions to the Association For Electronic Music (AFEM) have been significant, from founding its Mental Health Working Group to serving on its Executive Board.

A recognized voice on ADHD and mental health in music, Tristan has spoken at global conferences like ADE and IMS and has been spotlighted in Billboard, DJ Mag, and the BBC. He holds degrees from Southampton and Birkbeck Universities, a coaching diploma from Animas, UK, and ADHD coach training from ADDCA, USA. Offstage, Tristan occasionally showcases his skills as a DJ.

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