What Can You Tell Me About Motor Tics in Children?

Updated on December 10, 2013
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
6 answers

Mamas/Papas, I've noticed what appears to be a facial tic in my 9 year old son. For a few days I thought he was randomly winking at me and we would joke about it but I noticed today that he's winking and then pursing his lips and moving them to the side and just making quick but strange faces. We have an appointment with a developmental pediatrician in March who I would imagine can help us out if this continues until then. The appointment was originally made because he has poor impulse control and it has been suspected that he has ADHD but after repeated evaluations, he doesn't quite fit the criteria, possibly because his intelligence level (which hasn't been measured but he's undoubtedly a fast learner) may be such that he's able to compensate for the traits that normally reveal learning issues with ADHD. Our hope is that the DP can do a complete evaluation and help us figure out what's going on with him.

If your child has or has had tics, when did you notice? Did they get progressively worse? Did they ever go away? Was there anything that worked for treating them? How does your child cope with them? Did she or he suffer socially?

Thanks for any insight you can share!

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answers from Burlington on

My daughter was recently diagnosed with Tourette's. Her main tic is a blinking one. The specialists we saw taught her how to use what they call a "competing response". Basically you teach the patient that whenever they feel the urge to do their tic, they consciously do something else that makes it impossible for their body to do the tic, so with my daughter they taught her that whenever she feels the urge to blink her eyes hard, she needs to purposefully close her eyes very slowly and keep them shut for a second and then re-open them slowly. When she feels like making a fist, she needs to push her open hand gently against the side of her leg. The idea is to replace the tic with something that isn't so noticable or socially awkward. They did mention that there are drugs out there, but they don't always work well and behavior therapy seems to be the better way to go. They did also mention that they often go away with time. My daughter's been trying these techniques and is having some success. I think she has tics less now. She did have some issues with bullying at the beginning of the school year, but we addressed that with the school (who addressed it with the bully) and now she's going to these therapy sessions, so she's doing much better now. Luckily she has a few good friends who like her for who she is, tics or not, so that helped, too.

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answers from Sacramento on

Our son is extremely bright (made Principal's List last year for perfect grades) and has severe ADHD, so intelligence doesn't mean anything. I won't digress into ADHD, though, since it sounds like that isn't a factor anyway.

Our son has had tics off and on for years. They're made worse by his ADHD medication, but he isn't functional without the medication, so we have to continue. His started in around second grade. They change over time. One week, he might be jumping up. Another he might blink funny and move his mouth funny. Or he might have strange, repetitive hand movements.

We've been extremely fortunate that kids at school have said nothing to him. His friends have been awesome. That may change when he enters junior high next year.

The tics recently started getting really bad, to the point where our son was asking us to help get rid of them. So, we made the call to try Risperdal. We're only on the first week, but it's already helping and no side effects (sleepiness is the big one to watch for and we haven't seen it). The big tics are gone. We're still gradually upping the dosage (on a tiny amt. at this point), so I suspect with the next bump up they'll all be gone.

Medication and waiting it out are really the two options. Apparently, tics (that aren't Tourette's) go away when kids hit puberty.

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answers from New York on

My son has had tics since he was about four (he's 9 now). His changed over time, sometimes being a blowing his lip, sometimes being blinking, etc. Usually he does one for a few months to a year before changing, but sometimes a secondary one will pop up. It was never like one was worse than another until right before school started this year when it developed into a vocal tic.

They definitely get worse when he doesn't get enough sleep or if he is stressed.

We saw a ped neurologist this fall when that vocal tic emerged. Pretty much we found out that since he now does motor AND a vocal tic that he is only a timeframe away from a Tourette's diagnosis (once you've had the dual symptoms for a year you get the diagnosis).

My regular ped always said kids tend to grow out of them by puberty and that the side effects for drugs to treat it are usually worse than the actual tic. The neuro agreed, but was also very frank with asking my son how he felt about having the tics and made sure my son knew that if it became too much for him to deal with that there are drugs he can try.

Most people say to ignore the tic - when you point it out the kid becomes more self-conscious about it, leading to more stress, leading to more tics. But I have always tried to be upfront with my son about them. So ever since about first grade if someone asked him why he blinked so much he would answer back very matter-of-factly that "I have a tic and I can't help it." Now with this vocal tic I've been in contact with his teacher and the school counselor to keep an eye on the situation because I didn't know if it would start to be something kids would make fun of, but so far it's going okay (though I do have a meeting tomorrow with the counselor so I may need to edit my answer afterward!).

I have talked with friends who said their boys DID eventually outgrow the tic, but I also have a very good friend my age who has had them his entire life (but he is a doctor so they didn't hold him back at all).

Good luck!

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answers from Philadelphia on

Sorry, I don't have any tick information. Just wanted to say that gifted kids can have ADHD. ADHD is a diagnosis not dependent or correlated to intelligence.

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answers from Dallas on

Each one of mine had tics. One's tics went away, which is likely, one still persists. One took Singular and it made it MUCH worse, stopped it, they stopped. Started again, they started again. Look at his meds and anxiety. They both can make it worse but some kids, especially boys at that age, have trouble with tics. They can make interactions awkward sometimes. Hope your doc can help him with it. Mine never took anything.

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answers from Columbia on

My sons have ADHD and are highly intelligent. ADHD does not mean a child is learning disabled.

As for tics, is your child currently taking any medications? I'd start there. My older son started having tics when he started a new med. I noticed they were especially bad when he was coming off the medication. I switched to another medication that tapered off more slowly and noticed that the tics stopped. He was coming off the medication too quickly.

Some medications cause tics, and some docs will offer a secondary medication to stop the tics, but I'd suggest changing meds or dropping the dose before using another med for that side effect.

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