On Tic Disorders

by a Mother in Virginia

Here are 10 tips about tics I've learned through my family's experience.

1. Don't panic or try to make your child suppress tics -- it can only make them worse and damage his or her self esteem.

2. As soon as one tic goes away, another equally annoying one might take its place in a few weeks or months.

3. Don't presume there is a cure. In our case, medications like Clonodine did not help and had other bad side effects.

4. Certain stimulant medications like cough medicines can definitely trigger tics, and once you turn them "on" it can take quite a bit of time for them to turn themselves "off" even if you stop the meds immediately. Be really careful when using stimulants like Ritalin, as these are well known to bring out or increase tics.

5. Keep in mind that most people don't notice the tics nearly as much as you do.

6. Explain to your child that the tic is just the way his brain works, that a lot of really smart people have tics and that it is not a big deal. Tell him he can just explain to friends that he has a "tic" if people ask him. Having a response to give to nosy people really helps, and they stop asking once they get an explanation. You can share the information with teachers and guidance counselors to help them deal with nosy or unkind children.

7. Have faith that your child will come to accept his tic condition (provided you are accepting and act like it's no big deal) as part of who he is. Think about all the people you work with or might know in life from church or school who blink or do other less than typical things but you don't even give it a second thought. These are folks with tic disorders. They are everywhere if you observe carefully. In families where tics are in the genetic code, when Jr. gets diagnosed Grandma might say, "Oh yes, your Uncle Albert did the same thing" ... but in the days before there were labels for everything parents didn't get so excited about tics or think of it as a "disorder." It was just something funny your kid did.

8. If any children are mean or rude, don't hesitate to gently call the parent and politely explain what a tic condition is so that they can ask their child to be sensitive and kind.

9. Stress does exacerbate the underlying genetic conditions causing tics, and kids may improve tremendously after they're removed from a stressful school environment. Talk to your child and see if there's anything stressing him or her out. You can't fix everything, but see if there's any way to relieve some pressure.

10. Most of all, remember that the majority of tics either get a lot better or go away as the child approaches adolescence.

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