Is Tourette Syndrome cursed? Part 2: Books

In addition to everything I’ve read on closed Facebook Tourette Syndrome groups about the stigma, bullying and mistreatment happening to people with TS, we also had a boy reading the book “The Schwa Was Here,” by Neal Schusterman, in his middle school class. He came across this passage:

It was Howie who suggested the Elephant Man theory. We had all been trying to figure out what condition Crawley’s granddaughter suffered from that was bad enough for him to pay me to spend time with her.

“I mean, she’s got to be ugly in some basic, unnatural way to make it worth money,” says Howie.

“Maybe not,” said Ira. “Maybe it’s Tourette’s syndrome.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s where you have these little seizures and can’t stop cursing people out.”

And then this:

Lexie finally stepped out of the shadows. I didn’t see anything wrong with her at all. Tourette’s syndrome, I thought. Any second she’s gonna start cursing me out.

He went to his teacher and told her that he was offended. She told him to write the author. That was it. There was no class discussion clarifying that that is not what Tourette is, just “maybe you should write the author.” It took his mother going to the school administration to arrange to have the school counselor come to the class and explain to the class what Tourette is and that a member of the class has it but he won’t be cursing anyone out.

I’m sorry, but this story just royally pissed me off so it needs more than just a bullet point. I’ve read part of the book and it seems like a good middle school level book, except for those two passages.

I can understand the average teacher using it in a classroom and not even noticing the Tourette reference being misinformation  because most people don’t know that that is not what Tourette is, but this was a class with a student with Tourette, the teacher knew there was a student with Tourette and had no class discussion planned!

In a middle school setting where bullying is common, that is just giving a potential bully ammunition. He went to the teacher, she had a chance to discuss with the class what Tourette really is and didn’t take it. His mother contacted the teacher and still no class discussion. The fact that it took his mother going to the school administration and complaining to finally have it explained to the class that what the book said was not correct is appalling.

But the sad thing is, it’s not that shocking to me anymore that this would happen. The belief that Tourette is about swearing (coprolalia) is so common that people don’t feel the need to correct that misperception when they see it, even teachers.

Come back Thursday for more, or check out my blog.


  1. Wow, that is rough and I’d be offended also. At the same time, I force myself to wear the hat of the teacher who has 1000 things going on and am always encouraging my kid to advocate for himself. There is no other way. Teach others to do better! I support you! I encourage you!

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