Recognising and Treating Tourette's Syndrome in Young Australians: A Need for Informed Multidisciplinary Support

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Abstract

Objective:

This study aimed to evaluate the complex clinical phenomenology of Tourette's syndrome within a community-based Australian sample. It also aimed to determine the service needs of this population.

Method:

Participants included parents of individuals with Tourette's syndrome (n = 86; mean age = 11.4, standard deviation [SD] = 2.8) and control group peers (n = 108; mean age = 11.3, SD = 2.6). Clinical phenomenology was assessed using the Parent Tic Questionnaire, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Reports of formally diagnosed disorders, a comprehensive family history and accounts of service needs were also gathered.

Results:

Findings mirrored the profile of Tourette's syndrome reported in international populations, revealing heterogeneous tic and comorbidity profiles. High rates of comorbidity (77%), often involving multiple co-occurring diagnoses, were reported for the Tourette's syndrome group. These included obsessive compulsive disorder (44%), anxiety disorder (36%), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (32%), and learning disorders (18%). Results of the SDQ determined significant elevations in symptoms of conduct and mood disorders for individuals with Tourette's syndrome (p = .01). Parents also reported shortcomings in health and education services, low levels of understanding of Tourette's syndrome by health professionals, and half reported stigmatisation within the Australian context.

Conclusions:

The study confirmed the challenges confronting youth with Tourette's syndrome and revealed deficits in Australian health and educational services for individuals with Tourette's syndrome. Findings indicate the need for increased education for health professionals and the provision of multidisciplinary services to meet the complex needs of this clinical population.

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