Tourette Syndrome and Bullying

Key points

  • Children with Tourette syndrome (TS) experience more bullying than children without TS.
  • Bullying is unwanted, agressive behavior that is repeated or has the potential to be repeated.
  • Bullying can cause serious, lasting problems for children.
  • Laws and other resources help protect children from bullying.
young boy being bullied at school


Bullying doesn't just happen to the smallest kid in the class. Children who bully others target those who seem to be less powerful or not as strong. Children who bully others also often target those who seem "different." Children with Tourette syndrome (TS) experience more bullying than children without TS. Children with TS also may experience being treated differently by teachers and other adults.1 It is important to understand the effects of bullying, a child’s legal right not to be bullied, and where to find additional resources.

Kids bullying teen boy
Bullying, teasing, and harassment should not be considered normal rites of passage or just “kids being kids."

What is bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power. The aggressive behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

  • Bullying can be physical, involving hitting or attacking another person or their possessions.
  • Bullying also can come in the form of verbal aggression, including teasing, name calling, verbal threats, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, putting someone down, and threatening to cause harm.
  • Bullying can also come in the form of social aggression, which involves hurting someone's reputation or relationships. Social bullying can include leaving someone out on purpose, declaring them as different, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, or embarrassing someone in public.

Bullying can be in person, but it can also come in the form of electronic aggression (e.g., cyberbullying using the Internet or cell phones). It can include threatening, embarrassing, or insulting emails, texts, or social media posts. button with image of one student with down syndrome reading with other students provides information about creating safe environments for children with disabilities.

Learn more at

What are the effects of bullying?

Children and youth who are bullied are more likely than other children to

  • Be depressed, lonely, anxious
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Experience headaches, stomachaches, tiredness, and poor eating
  • Be absent from school, dislike school, and have poorer school performance
  • Think about or plan suicide

Bullying can cause serious, lasting problems, not only for the children who are bullied but also for the children who bully and those who witness bullying. Children who bully others may do so to gain social status or as a reaction to being bullied. Some children with TS may also bully others.2

Video - Stand up for Tourette
Learn how to stand up for children with Tourette syndrome.

Watch a video about how to handle teasing and bullying.

Legal rights

There are laws to protect children from bullying by peers, school personnel, or other adults. TS is recognized as a disability in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Disability harassment is discrimination that violates Section 504 and its regulations. Under Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, disability harassment in schools is defined as

"Intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a student's participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the institution's program. Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts and name-calling, as well as nonverbal behavior, such as graphic and written statements, or conduct that is physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating."

For more information

This site has information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: has information from the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention about bullying and tips to make it stop.

These sites have information about bullying for schools, parents, kids, and teens:

This site has information from the Tourette Association of America about bullying and what parents, teachers, and administrators can do to help:

  1. Charania SN, Danielson ML, Claussen AH, Lebrun-Harris LA, Kaminski JW, Bitsko RH. Bullying victimization and perpetration among US children with and without Tourette syndrome. J Dev Behav Pediatr. Published online May 26, 2021.
  2. Ricketts EJ, Wolicki SB, Danielson ML, et al. Academic, interpersonal, recreational, and family impairment in children with Tourette syndrome and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2021; published online January 1, 2021.