Speech and Language Issues
The simple and complex vocal tics in Tourette syndrome differ in speech production. Burd, Christensen and Kerbeshian explain that with simple vocal tics, children “often incorporate poorly synchronized sequences of respiratory, vocal cord and oral articulatory mechanism," while complex vocal tics may include a sequence of simple motor tics, interruptive phonemes or pragmatically misplaced verbalizations. One misconception about Tourette syndrome is that patients say obscene of inappropriate words as their tics. Genetics Home Reference notes that while this type of tic, called coprolalia, can occur, it is uncommon. If a child does have coprolalia, she may say one word or a phrase.
Some children with Tourette syndrome may repeat words. If the child repeats somebody else’s words, it is called echolalia, but if she repeats her own words, it is considered palilalia. Children who have echolalia can have immediate echolalia or delayed echolalia. With immediate echolalia, the child immediately repeats what the other person was saying. Children with Tourette syndrome who have delayed echolalia as a vocal tic repeat what another person has said, but there is a delay before the repetition. In cases of palilalia, the repetition may be a word or phrase and the child may whisper the repetition. When speaking, a student with Tourette syndrome may use different voice intonations. Burd, Christensen and Kerbeshian note that whether a student has simple or complex vocal tics, they break semantic rules, “because of their insertion into larger units of conversation where they have no apparent contextual meaning."
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke adds that children with Tourette syndrome may have other language problems, such as difficulties with writing or reading. Students with reading problems can have trouble retaining the information they just read. Shaw, Woo and Valo note that other reading problems that may be seen in students with this disorder include problems with reading speech and reversal of letters, words and numbers. Reading and writing issues may also arise if the child has motor tics such as rapid eye-blinking, which interferes when trying to keep her eyes on the page.
Speech production problems are also possible with Tourette syndrome. For example, a child with the disorder may speak rapidly that it is difficult to understand what she is saying. Some children may stutter. Dysfluency is another issue that may be seen with this syndrome. Shaw, Woo and Valo note that these speech problems are not due to the tics alone; in fact, these speech production problems are the result of the TS gene.