Bullying Prevention & Tourette Syndrome

As in any diagnosis that would set a child apart from their classmate, having a tic or Tourette disorder can, unfortunately, make your child a target for bullying. While that increases the likelihood, unfortunately, bullying can happen to children of all shapes, sizes, and personalities.  Even more complicated, bullying can take place in many forms.  With the more obvious form of physical bullying, verbal and social bullying is often less recognized.  With the wide accessibility of technology and the personal privacy of social media, cyber-bullying has become increasingly more common. No matter the form, all types of bullying are unacceptable and can be harmful to your child.

Be aware of signs of bullying (1,2), as often; these can present similarly to symptoms of TS or the co-occurring conditions. However, what is important to note is a change or some unusual that might not be attributed to living with tic disorders.

  • Increased mood changes such as depression or anxietystop bullying
  • Can include self-destructive or self-harming behaviors
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • A sudden change or decline in grades or academic success
  • Avoiding extracurricular activities that your child likes
  • The unusual difficulty with sleeping or nightmares
  • Unexplainable or unusual injuries

There are many avenues to prevent and manage bullying both in and out of school.  To

  1. Include bullying prevention strategies in your child’s 504 plan or IEP (3):
  • Assign a peer advocacy or ambassador. This program, through the PACER program, supports young people who want to make a difference against bullying by matching students with others to offer social inclusion and prevent bullying.
  • Have a “safe person” at the school that can be a trusted adult in which your child can go to for assistance with peer difficulties
  • Educate the school bus driver if bullying is taking place on the bus
  • Having a bullying prevention training program at school
  • Allow your child to leave class a few minutes early to avoid hallway bullying incidences
  1. If impaired social skills create difficulties with peer interaction, seek out opportunities to engage in peer participation:
  • Joining a Tourette Association sponsored support group to encourage children of similar difficulties to engage and form a relationship
  • Explore Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy for training for age-appropriate social skills and interactions
  1. Explore counseling services that encourage your child to explore their feelings and manage the feelings that are associated with bullying
  2. Speak out against bullying

Although there is no federal anti-bullying law (2), the U.S. Department of Education has worked with each state to created laws  to prevent and take action against bullying.  Understanding the parameters of the laws, where and how to go about reporting bullying, as well as what services are available after the bullying takes place.  It has been shown (3) that many times adults are not aware of how to appropriately respond when their child tells them about bullying. By staying aware of the anti-bullying laws in your state, and being pro-active in educating, the more positive impact we can make for the fight against bullying.

For tic and Tourette disorder-specific bullying prevention education, visit the Tourette Association Web page.

Visit the bullying resource page for webinars and toolkits.




  1. Stopbullying.gov (2018 February 7) Warning Signs. Retrieved from http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/
  2. Stopbullying.gov (2017 September 28). Facts about bullying. Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html
  3. Tourette Association of America (n.d.) Bullying prevention & strategies. Retrieved from https://www.tourette.org/about-tourette/overview/living-tourette-syndrome/bullying-issues/

About the Author


Heather Simpson, OTR/L

Heather Simpson graduated with a B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science with a minor in Early Education from the University of Florida in 2007. Following…

Read all articles by Heather Simpson, OTR/L