Friday, May 24, 2013

Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month: Tics

You're at the grocery store and you notice a lady at the meat counter jerking her head to the side repeatedly.  You're out to eat and hear the child at the table next to you grunting throughout much of the meal.  While at the park, you hear someone yell 'fire' multiple times, despite the fact that there is no fire present. How do you respond?  Do you stop and stare?  Do you go to the people in question and ask if they are alright?  Do you walk away, assuming bad parenting, drug use, or even just the desire for attention are to blame?

Believe it or not, these are all situations that I have encountered in public places - situations that I am lucky enough to understand rather than to have a reaction like those I mentioned above.  For those of us blessed (yes, I did say blessed) enough to have experience with Tourette Syndrome, it's easy to understand that those situations are all examples of tics.  Rather than bring attention to the tics or assuming the worst, we're able to sympathize with the ticcers, understanding that they are struggling with the need to perform these actions, no matter how badly they want to control them.

Tics can come in many forms, motor and vocal, simple and complex.  The possibilities are endless.  Below are a few examples of each type of tic.  As you may notice, some tics can be unclear as to whether they are classified as simple or complex.  Please remember that these are just examples, and that for each example listed, there are many more that are not listed.  It is also important to remember that some children experience tics that show up for a short period of time and then disappear with no explanation, never to experience another tic again (in which case, wouldn't be indicative of a tic disorder such as Tourette Syndrome)

Simple Motor Tics - eye blinking, neck jerking, shoulder shrugging, facial grimaces

Complex Motor Tics - groaning behaviors, facial gestures, biting oneself, smelling things, stomping of feet, jumping

Simple Vocal Tics - throat clearing or coughing, grunting, sniffing, snorting, barking

Complex Vocal Tics - coprolalia (the use of inappropriate words, which is rather rare despite media portrayal of this being common with TS), palilalia (rapid repetition of a word or phrase), echolalia (repetition of words)

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