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Understanding Your Child’s Tourette Syndrome Diagnosis

Understanding Your Child’s Tourette Syndrome Diagnosis

Tourette syndrome dramatically impacts a child’s self-esteem, as unusual tics draw unwanted attention from peers, affect their ability to make friends, and interfere with success at school.

Tourette syndrome also affects parents because no one is ever prepared to help their child with an uncontrollable tic disorder.

The compassionate team at THINK Neurology for Kids works closely with children and their parents. They offer treatments that help children manage tics and support parents with recommendations they can follow at home to make life better for their child.

Here, the team explores Tourette syndrome, providing the information parents need to better understand their child’s tics.

Tourette syndrome explained

Tourette syndrome is a neurological condition and one of several tic disorders. The tics — sudden, uncontrollable, and repeated sounds and movements — usually begin around 5-7 years.

The tics may be so mild initially that you don’t notice them. After your child’s tic becomes more obvious, they may have variable symptoms, as the type, number, frequency, and severity of their tics can change. Sometimes a tic may disappear for weeks or months before recurring.

Even if your child’s tics vary, children with Tourette syndrome have motor and vocal tics (not always at the same time) that last at least one year after their first tic.

The frequency of tics often increases between the ages of 8-12 years. Then their tics typically improve during adolescence, and for many, tics disappear by adulthood. However, some will continue struggling with Tourette syndrome throughout their adult years.

Tourette syndrome symptoms

Vocal tics consist of involuntary sounds, while motor tics involve muscle movements.

Motor tics

Uncontrollable muscle movements are often the first signs of Tourette syndrome, typically beginning with facial tics.

Examples of motor tics include:

Multiple muscle groups may be involved, resulting in more complex movements like jumping or hopping.

Vocal tics

Many people associate Tourette syndrome with verbal outbursts of swearing and cursing, but these symptoms only occur in 10-15% of people.

Examples of common vocal tics include:

Tics involving words or phrases are noticeable because they’re out of context. For example, the words don’t fit the ongoing conversation or current situation.

Tourette syndrome treatments

The best treatment for your child depends on the severity of their tics and how tics affect their social and school life. In addition to teaching parents how to support their child we may recommend one or more of the following:

Comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics (CBIT)

CBIT is the primary treatment for Tourette syndrome. This approach uses several techniques that help children understand their tics and how to manage them.

CBIT will teach them to pay attention to feelings, emotions, and circumstances that trigger their tics and recommend alternative behaviors they can use to prevent the tic. CBIT often includes relaxation training and modifying daily activities that may increase tic behaviors.

School interventions

One of the most crucial factors in your child’s success depends on whether their teachers understand Tourette syndrome and have effective strategies they can use in the classroom.

For example, teachers can easily mistake tics for purposeful disobedience or classroom disruptions and enforce disciplinary protocols that won’t work for your child. We can help you share the appropriate information with teachers and recommend techniques for supporting your child at school.

Medical treatments

Medications may be needed for severe symptoms. We may prescribe one of several possible medications that don’t stop Tourette symptoms but can diminish the severity of tics.

Treatment for co-occurring disorders

Many children with Tourette syndrome also have another mental health disorder or face other challenges, such as:

Our team provides holistic care, identifying and treating all the issues that affect your child’s mental health and well-being.

If you have questions about Tourette syndrome or tics or want to schedule an appointment, don’t wait to connect with THINK Neurology for Kids. Call the office in The Woodlands, Katy, Sugarland, or Lakeway, Texas, or request an appointment online today.

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