Tourette Syndrome Joins Autism As Silent Epidemic 1 in 200 NJ schoolchildren show signs

Somerville, N.J. (February 21, 2007): A study published earlier this month shows the incidence of Tourette Syndrome is on the rise. The study appearing in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found “not only marked increases in autism as expected, but also in hyperactivity and Tourette Syndrome.”


“This study highlights not only the alarming widespread rise of Tourette and neuropsychiatric disorders in children as a whole, but the growing need for support and services for the children and families affected by these disorders,” remarked Faith Rice, Executive Director of the Tourette Syndrome Association of New Jersey (TSANJ).


The study, conducted by Denmark’s University of Aarhus, tracked over 650,000 children over a ten year period. Researchers found marked increases in diagnoses of Tourette’s as well as autism and hyperkinetic disorder. The report did not identify what had caused the increases.


“While Autism has gleaned a great deal of media attention of late, with studies showing a clear rise in its incidence, Tourette Syndrome is silently gaining ground as well. In fact, Tourette is much more widespread than people realize—affecting as many as 1 in 200 children or 28,000 kids in New Jersey alone,” added Ms. Rice. Tourette Syndrome (TS) is an inherited, neurological disorder characterized by repeated involuntary movements and uncontrollable vocal (phonic) sounds called tics.


After reviewing the report and New Jersey statistics, Senate President Richard J. Codey, an avid supporter of TSANJ, pledged his support.


“The release of these statistics is a clear call for action,” said Sen. Codey. “New Jersey children and families affected by TS shouldn’t have to go through this without hope or recourse. The state of New Jersey must remain a steadfast partner in this fight and deliver whatever help we can to Tourette Syndrome families.”


An estimated 1 in 200 New Jersey schoolchildren show at least partial signs of Tourette Syndrome, which can range from severe verbal and physical contortions to milder tics that are barely recognizable. It is sometimes best known for sudden outbursts of profanity, but that characteristic afflicts only about 5 percent of those identified as having the disorder, advocates say. Commonly, people with Tourette syndrome also have co-occurring disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder and Depression.


Dr. Lori Rockmore, Clinical Director for Rutgers University’s Tourette Syndrome Program, states “Our TS clinic is inundated with requests for services. We have more requests than we can currently handle and have had to establish a waiting list. It is clear that resources not only need to continue, but, in fact, need to increase to better serve New Jersey’s Tourette Syndrome population.”


The Rutgers program is a collaboration with TSANJ, offering New Jersey families counseling and support groups. A practicum for doctoral students to study TS, the program also develops ways to educate families and professionals on TS and its associated disorders.


“Parents of children diagnosed with Tourette or exhibiting symptoms of this disorder, need to be aware that through TSANJ, New Jersey leads the nation in providing supportive services and programs for families living with this devastating neurological disorder,” added Rice. TSANJ serves as the umbrella for a wide range of programs available in the state, including medical research, parent support and teacher training. Its most prolific program has been the workshops it sponsors for teachers and medical professionals who serve children with Tourette, with more than 35,000 New Jersey professionals trained in the last 8 years, according to the association.


The association also collaborates with Rutgers University and UMDNJ to deliver services through the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders where services include medical treatment, training and research. Within the center, headed by noted Rutgers geneticist Dr. Jay Tischfield, is the nation’s first sharing repository of human tissue for Tourette syndrome research.


For more information contact: Faith Rice or Lisa Rongo, Tourette Syndrome Association of New Jersey, Inc., 50 Division Street, Suite 205, Somerville, NJ 08876. Phone: 908 575 7350, website: www.tsanj.org, email: info@tsanj.org