Focus on Tourette’s sufferer as group launched

PUBLISHED: 12:45 08 November 2013 | UPDATED: 12:45 08 November 2013


Living with Tourette’s syndrome is no joke for 13-year-old Elliott Higginbottom - who hopes to smash the common misconception that sufferers just swear a lot.

The Exmouth Community College student is keen to raise awareness of the syndrome by speaking out about the daily struggle that he and his family face.

Elliott and his mum, Louise, who recently took on the role of coordinating the new Devon Tourettes support group, kick-started their mission to highlight the ‘misunderstood condition’ by meeting up with Exeter’s mayor, plus four mums on a UK mission to complete the Tourettes Awareness Challenge – visiting 52 cities in just 10 days.

Single mum of three Louise, 35, of Forge Close, Budleigh Salterton, said: “I don’t want parents with young children to suffer the way we have.

“It’s just the lack of information. People don’t understand. When you look at Elliott, he’s got nothing physically wrong with him because it’s neurological.

“If someone is missing a leg you can see that straightaway but when it’s neurological it makes it hard for people to understand.

“People associate Tourette’s with swearing, but there are a small percentage of adults that actually swear. When you see a documentary it always focuses on that, you never see the depression or anxiety.”

Elliott was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome around seven years ago, shortly before the family moved to East Devon from Hampshire. He also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Through Tourette’s, Elliott is unable to contain any inappropriate thoughts, feelings or actions.

The condition means also he suffers with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), angry rages, depression and insomnia.

Doing ordinary tasks most of us take for granted, such as having a haircut, or going on holiday, are a minefield of stress for Elliott - who can take weeks to psyche himself up for the event.

Louise, a bereavement officer at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, describes the condition as a ‘hectic nightmare’ which impacts on the whole family.

Elliott, who hopes to one day have a girlfriend, has learned to suppress his condition at school, but the daily build-up of stress means the teenager releases his pent-up feelings in the safety of his own home.

Louise said Elliott’s 10-year-old sister, Hollie, a pupil at Woodbury Salterton Primary School, often takes the brunt of her brother’s condition.

“He will punch, kick and pull her hair,” Louise said. “He will swear at me and punch things. His bedroom has holes in it where he comes back from school and smashes it.

“It’s not just the swearing, it’s everything that goes with it that makes it hard to live with.

“He will say ‘I don’t want to be here; I don’t want to live here. I hate you’.

“I know he doesn’t mean it but it still really hurts.

“I don’t understand him sometimes and how his brain works. He sees the world completely differently.

“I would never ever change him; he’s Elliott. I would never have him any other way. I love him for the way he is. I just wish other people would recognise him and take the time to listen and understand, and not judge him.”

Louise said she was grateful to the Devon Tourette’s group for its support.

The group next meets from 1.45pm-3.45pm on Saturday, November 16, at Clyst St George village hall.

New members are welcome. To register, or for more information, email

For more information about Tourette’s syndrome visit:

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