Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let's Talk About Tics

Today is day 3 of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to educate those who might be confused about what tics are, and about how they differ among those who have Tourette Syndrome.

Tics are repetitive, involuntary body movements, and they can be physical or audible.  Some tics can be quite simple, such as eye-blinking or sniffing.  Some are more complex, such as when Monster Man looks upward at the outer sides of his face (opposite directions and up at the same time) while making a really wide smile.  Blinking, snapping, chewing, etc are all examples of motor tics.  Verbal tics can include such things as throat clearing, barking, and shouting.

Some verbal tics can include coprolalia, echolalia, and palilalia.  Coprolalia refers to the desire to curse or say derogatory words or phrases.  Echolalia refers to repeating what others say (kind of similar to the copycat games that kids like to play, mimicking each other, but instead is involuntary).  Palilalia is the repetition of  one's own words or group of words.  This can be similar to a stutter.  In Monster Man's case, he occasionally will repeat a few words in his sentences ("I want to go to to go to the ball fields tonight").  It happens so quickly that he often doesn't even realize that he's repeated himself, and it can go unnoticed on occasion by those around him (thankfully, since a stutter is often made fun of by kids his age).

Tics have a tendency to wax and wan.  They can come on for a very short period of time, then disappear for a while before returning.  Sometimes they come, stay a while, and then disappear completely.  Very rarely do tics come on and never go away.

Tics differ greatly between those with Tourette Syndrome.  You might fill a room full of people with TS, only to find that no two are having the same tics.  While two people might have matches in their lists of tics, they may not exhibit the same tics at the same time.  And for every match that is on their lists, they have many more that do not match up.  The lists of tics can be just as different as the individuals who have the tics.

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