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Tics And Tourette Syndrome

Tics and Tourette’s

Have you noticed that your child has tics? Have you received a tentative diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome due to the tics? If so, you are probably very worried. Media portrayals of people with Tourette Syndrome are often very dramatic and negative, suggesting that people who have this condition cannot live a normal life. That is far from the truth. While some people with extreme cases may have lifelong challenges, most people with Tourette Syndrome are able to live relatively normal lives.

What Are Tics?

Tics are involuntary movements. They are sudden movements, twitches or sounds that people repeat. While some tics may look like voluntary actions, they are involuntary. A person may be able to suppress a tic in certain situations, but it will eventually emerge.

There are two types of tics. Motor tics involve body movements. Examples include shrugging, moving your arms or hands, or blinking. Vocal tics involve making sounds. Vocal tics can include words, but often include other sounds like growls, coughs, or throat-clearing.

Tics can also be simple or complex. Simple tics involve one body part or just a few body parts. Complex body parts involve multiple body parts. Parents may be more likely to notice complex tics.

Are Tics the Same as Stimming?

Many people are aware that people with Autism and other sensory disorders may engage in repetitive motions to self-soothe. Those actions are actually voluntary self-soothing motions. Tics are involuntary. However, it may be difficult to tell the difference just by observation.

Do Tics Mean a Child Has Tourette Syndrome?

No. There are various tic disorders. To diagnose Tourette Syndrome, a child needs to have a combination of both motor and vocal tics and has had those symptoms for at least a year. However, treatment for tic syndromes can begin before that time.

Treatment for Tics

Because tics alarm parents, their first question is often about treatment. However, for a neurologist, the first question is whether the tics are impairing function or having a negative social impact on the child. If not, then we do not recommend treatment. Tics change over time and many people outgrow them. There is no need to intervene if a child just appears a little quirky.

However, if tics are impacting the child in a negative way, there are proven treatments to help. The first-line treatment for tics is comprehensive behavioral intervention (CBIT). If CBIT is unsuccessful, then we can explore medication options. Medication is our last resort option because some medications to treat tics can have side effects.

Neurology Knowledge Center – Tics & Tourettes

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