There are several different tic disorders, but the most commonly known is called Tourette's Disorder (TS). TS can begin as early as 5-7 years old in children. It consists of verbal and motor tics for more than 1 year. Tics are involuntary movements or vocalizations that happen suddenly, rapidly, and recurrently. Tics tend to change over time and can be “simple” or “complex.” 

A simple motor tic is something like eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, movement of the arms or legs. A simple vocal tic may include throat clearing, sniffing, or grunting. Complex tics last longer, and can seem purposeful, although it is not. It can look like several simple tics combined like shoulder shrugs with head tilts. Vocal tics can include saying socially unacceptable words, repeating sounds or words spoken by themselves or by someone else.

Tourette’s affects boys more than girls and 3-8 school-age children out of 1,000 receive this diagnosis. Tics tend to increase at 8-12 years of age. One-fourth of cases continue into adulthood. The best way to describe a tic is that it is similar to a sneeze or cough. The child feels a physiological urge (like a tickle in your nose before a sneeze), or a need to carry out the tic, and doing the tic can often lead to a sense of relief.

Children with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or Anxiety often have an additional diagnosis of TS. Executive functioning deficits and sensory overload are often common symptoms that are seen with TS.

Executive Functioning is a series of behavioral skills that occur in the mind that help us to reach a goal. Skills such as planning, organizing, motivation, and controlling emotions all lead us to carrying out a multistep goal like completing a school project.

Sensory overload can include being over-stimulated by sounds, smells, tastes, lights, or textures. Children who process incoming information as being “too much” can have behavioral and mood symptoms that impact their ability to function in socially acceptable ways.

Cognitive Behavioral Intervention of Tourette’s (CBIT) is the therapy most commonly used to treat TS. CBIT consists of 5 components:

  1. Psychoeducation
  2. Habit Reversal Training
  3. Functional Intervention
  4. Reward System
  5. Relaxation Training

Relaxation Training is a great place to start. There are several apps that you can incorporate into your child’s such as Headspace or Calm. There is also Cosmic Yoga on YouTube. You can create a calm down corner in your home, which is a place easily accessible to your child filled with low stimulation activities like books, pillows, drawing paper and crayons, PopIts, and noise canceling headphones. Encouraging your child to have a daily practice of taking time to use this space is beneficial for their overall wellbeing, but can be especially helpful in reducing the amount of tics. 

For more information on Tourette’s and other tic disorders, you want to find a therapist that specializes in treating tics and is certified in CBIT.

Since tics can resemble stereotyped movement or “stemming” in children with Autism and it has a high rate of being present with other diagnoses, further evaluation can be helpful in creating a treatment plan for your child. 

For more information about how CDK services can support you in creating a treatment plan for your child, please feel free to contact us at anytime.


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