When you hear the phrase Tourette’s Syndrome, you probably have a certain image that comes to mind. The first thing people think of when they hear that a child has Tourette’s Syndrome is that the child is going to unleash a string of expletives and inappropriate comments. This isn’t necessarily true of all children who have Tourette’s Syndrome. The more you know about Tourette’s Syndrome, the better you can watch your child for early warning signs that indicate that he or she may have this disorder.
One person is diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome out of every 100 people. It’s not incredibly common, which means that many people don’t really understand what to expect when they hear that someone has Tourette’s Syndrome. This is a special need that continues to have a stigma placed on it, although that stigma has gotten less over the years.
I just read a story about a 12 year old by named Ethan who has been diagnosed as having Tourette’s Syndrome. A commonly held misconception leads many people to expect that everyone who has Tourette’s Syndrome will be helpless from stopping themselves from screaming out swear words, and incredibly inappropriate comments, at precisely the worst moments. This isn’t Ethan’s experience, and it isn’t necessarily how most people who have Tourette’s Syndrome behave. Instead, what you may notice about Ethan is that he has some occasional twitches in his mouth or legs.
He also happens to have ADHD, just like a lot of children do. His mother says that there were days when Ethan would come home from school “without a civil word in his mouth”. He has found that taking half an hour or so to play his drums right after school is very helpful for him. This allows him to get on with his day. It’s not usual for children who have special needs to find school to be very frustrating, which can lead to anger. Playing the drums to release that frustration sounds like a great idea, to me.
When Ethan was younger he often would snort involuntarily. His mother would tell him to get a kleenex. Since Tourette’s Syndrome is so uncommon, a lot of parents mistake what might be a warning sign as just an odd quirk of their child’s behavior.
Tourette’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder that starts in childhood. It causes children who have it to make involuntary words or sounds (vocal tics), or body or facial movements (motor tics). These tics can begin at age 2, and become most apparent at around age 12. Some early symptoms include: twitching of the eyes, jerking of the neck, coughing or excessive throat clearing, or could even be just a series of unusual sounds and movements.
A tic can last for seconds, or continue for several minutes. There will be periods when these symptoms seem to go away, and times when the symptoms seem to be getting worse, or more frequent. Most children who have Tourette’s Syndrome do not scream out obscenities.
Image by Michael Coghlan on Flickr