Tics & Repetitive Behaviors
Berkeley Parents Network >
Worries Big & Little >
Tics & Repetitive Behaviors
Somebody have a child with tic or tourette disorder?
I am looking for the doctor or parents group.
My son set up tic disorder severely, but I don't have any
information about it.
My son saw Dr. Thomas Lowe at the UCSF Tic and Tourettes Disorder
clinic. He was very helpful. If you want to consider medication, it is
important to go with a doctor that understands the options and the way
different medications interact, and he had that knowledge. He also
developed a good rapport with our son, who saw him from about age 13
or 14 to 17 or 18. (He has outgrown most of his Tourettes
My son also went to a social skills group run by Mariah Antonides, in
Berkeley, where he learned a lot of basics on interacting with others,
that have helped him in putting others at ease. When he became more
relaxed in social situations in general, the tics became much less
Is your child taking the prescription allergy/asthma drug Singulair?
Tics are one of the possible side effects of the drug. In my son's
case, his tics escalated to violent head-snapping. After
consultation with Kaiser, we were told that, since he was in his
early teens, this was all part and parcel of those years for
pubescent kids with previous tic syndrome, albeit low level. We were
left with the choice of either using very strong prescriptions to
subdue the tics, which would have unwelcome side effects, or just
riding it out - being told that as the teenage hormones waned, so
would the violent muscle spasm tics. This was completely erroneous
advice. We researched the internet and discovered that his allergy
medicine might be behind these tics, which began to escalate about
the time he started his medicine - coinciding with the onset of
puberty. Once we stopped the Singulair, and the drug left his system,
the tics subsided to their previous low-level expression.
my 8 year old son has tourettes syndrome. he has multiple
tics throughout the day that get much worse at night. it
has gotten much worse over this summer.
i am really freaked out and extremely stressed by this
development. i have been through a lot with him but this
somehow is the most scary for me as it could potentially be
extremely debilitating for a lifetime.
i don't want to go the medical route with medication. what
alternative healers out there that you know who have
experience with working with children with tourettes
syndrome? the few alternative practitioners that i spoke to
do not really have experience in this field.
would love some advice
I am a well adjusted man, 51, had ticks that came and went
when i was young, on and off through adulthood. I remember
the ticks in the summer months of my youth the most. head
nodding, blinking. Maybe it was stress over the coming
school year, maybe because i didn't feel confident.. i don't
From my shallow research on the subject, 50% of humans have
a tick of some nature. I survived it because i had a loving
mom and dad. I used to blink, shake my head, occasionally
make guttural noises. But, i had friends, and have life
Anyhoo, i have survived and thrived. I know it can be
disconcerting to others and to me. My kids know i have a
''twitch'' or two. I say all this because there are some
things we can't really change. Maybe the folks around us
will be more accepting of differences... or not. I don't
twitch much now, BTW.
I was late 20's when i read Oliver Sack's book: ''The Man Who
Mistook his Wife for a Hat'' and there was a story about a
man who took drugs for his tourettes but it made him feel
dull. The fellow was a professional and played drums as a
hobby which was an outlet for his nervous, twitchy
energy.... He quit the drugs because of the side effects.
I was supporting a young family and the time and twitching
was pretty bad then... i was working and feeding wife and
baby as a sole bread winner.... hard stuff.
So, advice might be for mom, or the son... life will
continue. Twitching, like many behaviors, can be
disconcerting to others... only he will learn to fit in to
society... and that will likely be to control his twitching.
I equate the twitching to how most of us learn to get along
with other people. My twitching has gone up and down over
time... but i lead a normal (ok, normal is relative), happy
and productive life. I am sooooo glad i wasn't put on drugs
for my twitching... i like my energy level and fear that the
drugs that would have squashed my energy. As for talk
therapies... well, my advice: focus on the positive, build
on his strengths.
PS - i always wanted to see the documentary ''Twitch and
Shout'' but it is hard to come by. I actually met the film
crew for that documentary on a subway in Boston. I was with
a friend from the company i worked for at the time... and we
joked they could turn the cameras on me... suit and tie at
Sorry to hear about your son. There's a well-known
professor in my field with a facial tic (not sure whether
it's Tourette's, but...), so it doesn't necessarily do as
much harm as one might think.
I don't have much advice, but Oliver sacks has an
interesting book that includes numerous Tourette's and
related case descriptions (written for the general
public), which may help you/people in your family/others
understand the issues...let's see...(Google)...hmm, I
think it might be ''The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a
Hat,'' but I've read too many of his books...Google ''Oliver
Sacks Tourette'' if you haven't already.--Steve
I'm sorry to hear that your son has Tourettes. I wanted to
let you know that a good friend of mine also has Tourettes
and despite the ticks etc. he has managed to become a
successful corporate lawyer and set up his own international
company. He also acts as a mentor for children such as your
son. I asked him what advice he had, his response. ''If the
mother is, from the start, opposed to medicine, I don't have
a whole lot to offer. The meds today are terrific. One
thing that I know works in some cases is fish oil/Omega 3
fatty acids. At a minimum, she should try that.''
I didn't see your original post, but wanted to share a
resource with you. A childhood friend of mine with
Tourette's started a summer camp for kids with the same
called Camp Twitch and Shout
http://www.camptwitchandshout.com/. It is located in
Atlanta, but they have campers come from everywhere. It
seems like an amazing experience for kids with Tourette's
to meet one another in a comfortable, fun environment. My
friend is now a public school teacher in Atlanta, and the
Hallmark Channel made an inspirational movie of his life
story called the Front of the Class. I believe it is out
on DVD now. I wish you and your son all the best.
Hi there ~ we are trying to find out the best approach for
diagnosing and seeking treatment for our son who may have mild
Tourette's Syndrome and/ or ADD. We would like to get a name of a
doctor that specializes in children with these issues. We are not
sure if we should go through a neuropsychologist or psychiatrist.
We are wondering if any doctors at Children's Hospital, UCSF or
Stanford might specialize in this area? A response from anyone who
has travelled down this path and may have some information for us
would be appreciated.
Try Dr. Herbert Schreier @ Children's Hospital Oakland. You can
find his number by googling Children Hospital psychiatry or calling
their main number I'm sure.
Has anyone had experience with a child or teen who blinks excessively?
My 13 year old son started blinking a lot this past August. The
problem seems to have increased. He also exaggerates his blinking by
closing his eyes tight. He does not appear to be under any unusual
stress. He does well in school. He is well liked by teachers and
students. He is certainly not an overscheduled child. He does have
bad allergies (this could be adding to the blinking) and takes Zyrtec.
Blinking as a nervous tic does run in my family. My grandmother,
brother and two nieces had it. Aside from grandmother, everyone
else's blinking went away after several months. The pediatrician said
it's probably a tic or allergy related and to let it go for a month.
Anyone have a child with a blinking tic?
I have an adult friend who at this same age began the same thing.
She has what is called Tourette's Syndrome. Tourette's can be
manifested in a myriad of ways, blinking being one of the many.
After years of doing this(40+) her eyes become very tired and
extremely painful. In fact she goes to get shots to help with
the blinking and the pain. It does not affect her vision nor her
normal life. She did have a few seizures in her late teens which
was related. I would definitely have it checked out.
my son also had some tics, although he was younger when they
first started. I was very freaked out by it and did a ton of
research included taking him to kaiser, finally i got help with
it forma homeopathist who is very highly regarded including on
Berkeley Parents Network recommendations, her name is Christine
Ciaverella(sp?) and she is located in el cerrito at Hanneman
clinic her number is 524-3117, she is also trained in western
medicine as a nurse practioner and I swear the remedies help my
son and curbed the tics.....he takes a remedy every day. Note
that I was not the kind of person who was even into this
alternative medicine but when it came to helping my kid I was
willing to look anywhere and I swear this is what helped...good
been there solved that!
You son's eyes may not be producing enough tears for his comfort;
as a consequence, he may be blinking in order to hydrate his eyes
or deal with the discomfort. The Zyrtec may be contributing to
the dehydration. An optometrist can do a simple, painless test
to determine how much fluid his eyes are producing. If he needs
to have his eyes hydrated, the optometrist can recommend simple
ways to accomplish this, like over-the-counter artificial tears,
silicone plugs or prescription eye drops (like Restasis). Good luck.
I missed the original post, so I'm sorry if I'm misunderstanding
the problem. But some of the responses reminded me of a phase I
had as a preteen: a teenage cousin of mine had a way of blinking
forcefully with both eyes pretty frequently--I guess you could
qualify it as a tic. And I thought she was the coolest thing
ever, so I started doing it too, and it became unconscious pretty
quickly. We both somehow kicked the habit after a while, so
that's to say certain weird blinking tics could be pretty harmless.
--I was a preteen blinker too
My 2 year old daughter started having what appear to be motor
tics- she started with scrunching up her left cheek to a winking
of her left eye- then that behavior went away and was replaced a
week or so later by a face wiping behavior (like when kids wipe
their mouth/nose with their sleeve). This behavior was so
repetitive one day that she broke her skin and was bleeding on
her lip! She continues to wipe episodically but it is less
severe- does anyone have any experience with young kids who
tic? She doesn't have any vocal tics (which would qualify her
for Tourette's) but I'm apprehensive about how much worse her
motor tics could get. Her MD is sending her in for an EEG to
rule out a seizure disorder. I understand that there is really
no treatment for tics and that only meds are offered for severe
tics when they impair social or occupational functioning. What
does a parent do for a child with tics?
My husband's family has a history of Tourettes, so I shared all
the same worry when my son started blinking. Yet, many people
have now told me about ''traveling tics'' which are tics kids
pick up and then lose as they get older. Sure enough, he
blinked for 3 mo. in kindergarten, then 2 mo. at the onset of
1st grade (both probably stress induced since the tics started
at the beginning of the year in each case). They were strong
enough that the teachers were getting judgmental and starting
to tell my child to ''stop blinking'' (!, we asked them to not do
this) and then the tics gradually went away!
Sure, your daughter's tics could be something different and
more serious. So, sure, rule out seizure disorder, but then
ignore it if it's nothing more serious. And, while she's
young, you could have her evaluated in a low-key way by a
homeopath recommended to us (www.healthyhomeopathy.com - Dr.
Ulman does phone consults).
Here's why you don't want to bring attention to it or try and
control her behaviors : my husband, had mild tourette's as a
child (just tics, but no shouting or swearing). Though, it was
just tics, he was horribly teased as a child (less awareness
then). Here's what he taught me: ANY attempt to stop the tics
INCREASED the tics, turning the whole thing into a maddening
cycle. So, even if your daughter does have TS, you'll want to
empathize with the ''impulse'' to tic, and not make her bad for
it. No matter how well intended, your attempts to help
her ''get rid'' of it will make her feel shamed, and make the
tics increase. She'll need you as an ally in understanding
that tics are truly out of her control!
All my understanding - sistersue
Does anyone out there have children who have been treated for tic disorders?
My pre-teen child has developed severe eye blinking and I am afraid this
will affect self esteem and erode confidence.
Both my daughter (8th grade) and I have Tourette Syndrome, the "classic" tic
disorder (it's a genetic disorder). Contrary to popular legend, most people
who have TS have relatively mild tics in comparison to the swearing and
strange antics of those with severe cases that are portrayed in the media.
The onset of TS is always before the age of 18 and often occurs around 12.
Whether or not your child has TS, you owe it to yourself and him/her to
diagnose it early. I urge you to run, don't walk, to a neurologist with some
familiarity with tic disorders! I personally was not diagnosed until I was in
my 40s, and suffered greatly in self-esteem and self-confidence because of
this. Going through most of your life knowing every minute that something is
"wrong" with you, constantly being asked why you are acting that way, and
being pressured (even by my parents) to suppress tics (pure torture for a TS
sufferer), is tough to say the least. In contrast, my daughter has known
since the onset that she has TS. She understands that it's no big deal, is
able to explain it to people, and I believe she has a high level of
self-esteem and self-confidence. I would suggest that you also check out the
Tourette Syndrome Association website for information (www.tsa-usa.org). If
it turns out that your son/daughter has TS, it might be worthwhile to rent
the neat movie "The Tic Code" starring Gregory Hines and Polly Draper. Good
Luck. Please feel free to contact me to discuss this, or perhaps arrange for
your son/daughter to discuss things with my daughter,
In response to the parent asking about "tics" or eye blinking. There are
two neurological disorders that can cause this. One is Tuerette's syndrome,
(spelling?), and the other is "bletherospasm" which is particular to just
the eyes. Both of these are medical conditions (not psychological) and it
would be worth talking to a decent physician about these possibilities just
to make sure.
My child has had tics since age 5 (now a teen). I would be willing to
discuss with you individually if you email me. The most important thing
is to get a good evaluation to determine whether it is a transient tic,
chronic tic, or symptomatic of other disorders. It depends on who your
health provider is, of course, as to who you can go to for evaluation.
There are also some good websites I can give you. You can email me at:
Between 10 and 20% of all children have "transient" tics, that last less than
a year. Another 3-4% of children have chronic motor tics, which last more
than a year but eventually fade. An even smaller percentage have Tourette's
Syndrome, which consists of both vocal and motor tics -- vocal tics can range
from sniffing to coughing to growling, yelps, and various kinds of word
phrases (Tourette's is known in the popular culture as a disorder in which
people curse involuntarily, but that symptom only affects a minority of
children/adults with Tourette's). So if your daughter is blinking a lot
(which is probably a tic but could be a sign of allergy?), and you've just
noticed it, and she has never had other unusual movement habits that could be
tics, she might just be in that category of "transient tics."
It's hard to take a wait-and-see attitude -- I know, because my daughter was
diagnosed with Tourette's about 5 years ago, and while we were waiting to see
if the tics would go away or not, I was quite anxious (more anxious than my
daughter was). Over the years, some tics have bothered her a lot, and others
bother me much more than they bother her. When we've thought about medication
it's been important to figure out if we were responding to her needs or to
ours. The advice in the web site is generally good: behavior modification
and punishment don't work, ignoring the tics is usually best if it's possible.
In terms of her self-esteem, if you can model calm and matter-of-fact
acceptance of her symptoms, that will help her out a lot. And it's always
good to contact her pediatrician or nurse practitioner if you have any
concerns. I'm willing to take more questions by e-mail if the anonymous
parent so desires. Naomi
If you are interested in complementary medicine, I would suggest
talking to Mitchell Corwin of Berkeley. He is licensed as a
chiropractor, but does this wonderful work with muscles, the jaw and
cranial work. I know that he has quite a few children as patients.
My son developed not a facial tic but a twitch, which we had problems
getting a diagnosis, but Mitchell was able to treat it easily in 3
treatments. He ascribes some of these issues to traumas to the head.
At first I didn't bellieve it, but in reconstructing my son's summer,
in fact, he had gone body surfing, and had hit his head a number of
times, not enough to cause him to mention it or complain, but enough
to give him a twitch, 3 months later. yogreening
Well, I have a good one.
Our almost 10 year-old daughter, who is otherwise charming and self-possessed,
has, for the past couple of years, gone through an array of nervous tics that are
REALLY starting to irritate my husband and myself. First it was nail biting.
She gave that up for blinking--constantly. This was driving us crazy when she
was in a choir, and we would go see her perform (this is now on videotape for
posterity). There she was up on the stage, blinking away nervously, like
someone was shining a flashlight in her eyes. That went away. And was
replaced by--finger movements. So I asked her about that. "I'm playing piano
in my head", was her response. That went away and was replaced by sniffing.
And now she has been sniffing so much that friends comment on her constant
"allergies" (she doesn't have them). I think I have a somewhat nervous girl (I
was rather high strung myself and bit my fingernails as a child). My husband
is getting so upset that he wants to start taking privileges away, but I am not
sure this is the way to handle something that she must be doing to let off
nervousness. I have asked her if she is aware of when she is doing this, and her
response is, "Sort of." Mostly I get a blank stare. I have the feeling that if she
gives this up, she will move on to something else. So--how to channel this in a
way that is non-irritating?
Are there any other parents out there who have experienced this and who can
offer some advice?
What you call "nervous tics" may be Tourette's Syndrome. My ten year
daughter was diagnosed with the disorder as a 5 year old. I would never
have thought of this as the explanation for her strange behaviors had it not
been for a cousin that has the disorder. She has displayed the simplest
tics, eye rolling and blinking, to some very complex tics - sniff, blink,
chest heaves, facial grimace, finger twirls, coughing; all in order, one
after the other. The tics change constantly and are very annoying to her two
older sister and myself at times. My solution to her hand tics was to give
her a book to read. This has turned her into a prolific reader and somehow
calms the the hand and eye tics. She has also taken up drums recently and is
able to channel the tics in a very creative way. Characteristic of this
condition is the involuntary nature of it. My daughter is not aware of the
tics when they occur except that she has to get it out, like scratching an
itch. Punishment does not stop the tics it only increases them by adding
stress. I suggest you consult your daughter's pediatrician after you have
scanned the web for information on the subject. You can start looking at
-- Mom of a talented, well adjusted and loved 10 year old with Tourette's
Please do not start taking priviledges away or punishing your child in any
way for the tics. There is loads of historical data on how detrimental that
can be to a child's self-esteem. Being the mother of a 7 year old with tics,
I know how hard it is to hold your head up and smile as though nothing is
amiss when the tics are going on, but that is exactly what you should be
doing. She'll hear enough from everyone else about how "weird" they are.
You really need to be her advocate. If you hear kids (or adults) saying
something to her, tell them it has a physical basis and is something she
can't help. Rather than trying to encourage your daughter to conform to the
norm, try to engender tolerance of difference in others (God knows, we could
use more of that in the world). If she can't depend upon her parents to
support her, who can she depend on? Most tics are neurologically based and
cannot be helped. The reason "nervous" has been applied to them is because
they do often accelerate under times of stress. This doesn't mean the child
is "nervous." It means that the greater physiological stimulus triggers the
neurological reaction. You may want to see a child neurologist to explore
the actual neurological causes. My daughter has been diagnosed with Tourette
Syndrome and I do find that people more readily accept the tics with an
official diagnosis. But there will always be those who are disturbed by
them. Please show your daughter by your good example that these people
aren't worth worrying about. And that those who are worth caring about will
not be put off by a few tics. There is a lot of good information regarding
tic disorders on the net. Try www.tsa-usa.org
A child with persistent tics/nervous habits could have a medical problem like Tourettes
Syndrome, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Before you start using behavior
modification or punishment, she needs a thorough evaluation. Depending on your
health insurance, you will probably need to start with your pediatician, but then you
might need to see a pediatric neurologist or a psychiatrist.
It sounds like your daughter is likely to have a nervous habit of some kind
to let off tension, at least for the present. I strongly recommend against
any punitive response like taking privileges away. I have two sons with
nervous habits, one of whom has been diagnosed with Tourette's
syndrome. The one with Tourette's over the years has learned to control
the tics at school and in other public places, and has periods at home when
he really lets them out. If the current tic is irritating, we will point
out that we know it is a habit and is hard to control, but ask him to try
to control it or to do it somewhere else. He is pretty good at this. It
sounds like your daughter may be able to control habits over time,
too. You could ask her to go out of the room, for example, when she needs
to sniff--or to try holding her breath briefly instead. That might make
her more conscious of the habit and might help her control it. Some
habits, like eye-blinking and head jerking, we found quite upsetting, but
we found that if we ignored them and didn't mention them to him, they
eventually went away. If it is REALLY driving you crazy, you might talk to
the pediatrician to see if the tics come from a neurological
condition. There are medications. But punishment (which our older son got
in school a bit, since some habits, like growling, just don't cut it in the
classroom) can have devastating effects on self esteem--don't do it. With
our younger son, we've just let well enough alone. So he likes to slap his
heel as he walks down the street or will drop to all fours in the midst of
running around the house (he's 10). I'm willing to be amused rather than
irritated by these little ways. They don't bother anyone else. Poking his
friends is another matter, and we've told him very clearly he needs to
control that habit--which he does when I'm around, anyway. (Calling it a
habit seems to help both boys recognized and control an irritating behavior
without taking it very personally as criticism of THEM).
i do not want to presume to diagnose your daughter, but our daughter,
same age group, had similar tics. we, too, were constantly on her to
"stop sniffing!, stop clearing your throat! stop blinking!" then our
very astute physician observed these behaviors and labeled it
tourette's syndrome -- either a mild form or the beginning signs of
more pronounced tourette's. he said we could have her evaluated, or
wait awhile and see what happens.
i was just amazed. i thought of tourette's as such a radical thing. i
came home and started reading -- mostly the stories and exhanges on
the internet between parents of children with tourette's. the majority
of parents described the same tics -- often appearing around age
8-10, mainly in girls. sometimes the tics went away entirely, sometimes
they were replaced by more radical tics. but the thing they all said
was: telling your child to stop will not help. they can't help it, any
more than they can help breathing. you will only make them feel bad
about themselves and aggravate the situation.
we ceased even mentioning the tics, and, if anything, consciously
tried to be more loving and understanding toward our daughter. it's
now eight months since our doctor mentioned tourette's. our daughter's
tics have decreased (the blinking has ceased entirely). this may have
been the natural course of things, so i can't say it's a direct result
of our response. but from what i read, it can't have hurt, and may
have helped. best wishes.
Your post was difficult for me to read, as I have had nervous tics at two times
in my life--when I was writing my dissertation and when I was divorcing. Rather
than concentrating on how irritating your child is to watch, why not try to
help her? She clearly is under stress. Perhaps you should consider some family
counselling, as it sounds like the root of the stress might be in your family
Your daughter sounds like she's dealing with some underlying anxiety. Your husband
may be on the right track with trying some kind of behavior modification, but I
recommend you proceed very carefully because you can easily make it worse. I would
start with a psychological evaluation for her and lots of research on anxiety issues for
you and your husband.
Both my kids experienced benign tics that eventually went away. Do be aware
that you can made them permanent by the way you handle them.
First, 70% of school age kids exhibit benign nervous tics at some time. So
don't think she is totally out of step.
If you punish her for something she can't control, you let her know that it
is "bad" and she will find it harder to let go of. I took my daughter to a
neurologist who suggested relaxation exercises. One that we used -- and did
with her -- was our "quiet face." You relax all the muscles in your face and
let your jaw go slack. Your daughter has to develop ways to relax. You
should jump in and be as like her as possible -- talk openly about when you
feel nervous and do something in reaction -- are you short tempered or do you
stop to have a glass of wine? Be honest, adults get nervous. You can say,
Hmm, guess I better stop and do the quiet face -- or some other meditative
behavior. Then when she has a tic, you can say: honey, want to do our quiet
face for a couple minutes?
Consider taking her to a neurologist. The doc might recommend a biofeedback
box. My son was really proud of being "better" at it than Dad -- Dad sure
couldn't get the feedback as slowed down as he could!
She is probably also embarrassed by the comments about allergies, etc. The
sooner you and your husband normalize her fears and anxieties, the sooner
she'll get past the shame and not need to dissociate from them.
I know, the tics are maddening for the parents -- especially when other
adults comment on them. But just hang in there. She's just at the age to
I have a now 18yr. old boy who, like your daughter, progressed from one
nervous tic to another - sniffing, lip licking, blinking etc. Friends
suggested therapy, constantly pointing out his tics to him and other
remedies. While I was not sure what I should do, I did feel that their
suggestions might make the situation worse. I tried to ignore his tics as I
was sure that his peers were only too happy to point them out to him. He
grew out of all his tics in time and I suspect your daughter will too. If
children are not accepted by their own parents, warts and all, where can they
expect acceptance? Taking away priveleges seems way too punitive for
something which right now is probably out of her control. Be kind and
patient and time will take care of the rest.
Please do not blame your child for Tics, in fact the phrase "nervous tics"
implies they are intentional. They may very well not be. My youngest son
(age 10) has tics and it can be hard to witness. We took him to a
neurologist at Kaiser Oakland and she said something to the effect: Many
young children exhibit tics. It may be a condition like Tourette's or not. It
may go away or not. There are medicines that can have a positive effect or
not. For my son, we are trying to take it in stride and not blame him. We
tried 3 different medicines (briefly) but none had a positive effect. Please
seek medical advice. Do some research on tics. Love that kid - it can't be
easy having them.
I've seen constitutional homeopathy work wonders with this type of situation. It sounds
to me like her behavior isn't conscious, but an expression of a more internal imbalance.
For this reason I don't think that taking away privileges will help very much -- it will
probably only make her frustrated beause it's a behavior that she can't control. A good
homeopath will do a very detailed interview -- with lots of seemingly bizarre and
unrelated questions -- and be able to prescribe a remedy that matches your individual
child. It's always hard for me to explain how it works, but homeopathy can work
miracles! There have been several homeopaths recommended on this list in the past;
the Hahnemann clinic is a great place to start. Good luck!
I can't offer advice from successful experience, but I can tell you from my own experience
what didn't work for me. I had a series of unpleasant tics for several pre-teen years and I
really don't know why--though I do recall that I got glasses, braces, and grew 7 inches
between the ages of 10 and 11--so how was I supposed to know how to live in my body?!
;> I was quite aware of my tics (jerking my head/throwing my hair back,
blinking/squinting my eyes, etc.), but didn't have much help in the way of
problem-solving skills or practical suggestions to help. The tics came and went in stages,
lasting many months each, and eventually went away altogether. In the worst times, my
family made fun of me by imitating me, teasing me, and humiliating me and that did
very little to help--if anything, it made me more prone to the behavior. Now I have a
very high-energy four-year-old child whose nervous system was exposed to toxic drugs in
vitro with her birth mother, and I see much in her!
itution that feels familiar. I am already teaching her to focus, breathe slowly, be aware of
her body, gain control of herself--all skills I hope will help if she encounters the tic
syndrome when she's older.
I'm middle-aged now and when I see myself on video and pay attention to myself in
meetings, I notice that I still move a lot more than most people. (For example, I clench
and flex my fingers without being aware of it, touch my face, chew on pens, jiggle my
legs under the table, etc.) I am a high-energy and fast-talking person and I have had to
consciously slow down and become aware of the "average" amount of movement and
speed most people use.
I would suggest the following: talk gently with your daughter about the behavior and let
her know it distracts you from paying attention to her and what she might want to
communicate to you and others. If she still lets you (I hear that's the "don't touch me!"
age), be physical with her in ways that connect you with her and might help her be
aware of her behavior and relax--hugs, pats, little shoulder massages, etc. See if she is
willing to designate a word or signal from you and your spouse that you can use to alert
her that she is exhibiting her current tic--confidentially and respectfully, even in
company--so that she can develop an awareness of it. I used to have problems with my
contacts and I learned some exercises to relax my blinking--perhaps these would be
useful to her. Put your fingertips lightly at the outside corners of your eyes, and when
you close your eyes in a relaxed way (as if you were falling asleep), you should not feel
the muscles tighten up. If you blink in
a protective response way (like when something is coming toward your face), you can feel
the muscles contract. I had to "learn how to blink" and this exercise helped--blink slowly,
as if I were falling asleep, ten times in a row several times a day. Perhaps you and she
could some acupressure points that would link to the parts of her body your child moves
inappropriately, and she could privately push on the points to increase awareness and
relax. Does she get enough vigorous exercise? She may have pent-up energy which could
benefit from being released in another physical way. Hope this gives some ideas which
First of all, please don't punish your child for
something she obviously can't control. Chances are,
by letting her know that you are "irritated", you will
only humiliate her and maybe even exacerbate the tics.
Why not talk to her doctor if you are concerned; Maybe
she/he can help find out the cause for the tics in the
I used to have a series of nervous tics as a child, and it drove my
parents crazy. They took me to the doctor, and found out it was the
result of having had scarlet fever. Apparently some of these
illnesses cause tics later on. My second thought is that she could
have some obsessive/compulsive issues. Does she also count her
actions and do things in threes, for example? My son (now 14) had
(and continues to exhibit) tics and the like -- particularly swaying
and hand rubbing/wringing. He was diagnosed with a seizure disorder
when he was 6, and then started with the tics at around 9. Not sure
if the tics are related to the seizures even now, but his UCSF
neurologist is very casual about it. Told us to leave the kid alone
-- that if we bugged him it would make it worse -- even said his own
son has a tic that drives them crazy but they just let it go. He said
it might help relieve nervous energy. I'd suggest having a bit of
testing done just so you know there is nothing serious behind it. I
bet she will just grow out of the ticks -- maybe they are just a
coping mechanism. Good luck!
Our son had what we called "snorting." It got so bad that a child in
his class begged me to do something about it one morning when I
dropped my son off at school. My son also exhibited some other
ticcing behaviors and was diagnosed with nervous tics by a behavioral
pediatrician. The snorting problem went away after we began using
Nasalchrome regularly. My son adds a personal warning that you have
to use it regularly, if you stop--or even cut down the dosage (we use
it twice daily) it will stop working and will take a few days to
become effectual again. Nasalchrome is available over the counter and
is safe to keep using indefinitely. For help managing the underlying
causes of nervous tics, I would advise a visit to Christine
Ciavarella at the Hahneman Medical Clinic in El Ceritto. And please
remember that your child is not to blame!
The symptoms you describe sound very much like the tics that can come with
obsessive-compulsive disorder. It would be a very good idea to have her
checked out for this by a neurologist or pediatrician used to dealing with
this disorder. I am not a fan of pharmaceuticals but OCD can be controlled
with certain drugs.It sounds very much like compulsive behavior, not
deliberate behavior, and I am sure your daughter would be glad to have it
I found the page on nervous tics very
helpful and saw a lot of similarities there with what I am dealing
with. I have been through the lip licking, then squinting the eyes,
then rolling the eyes, and now pursing her lips. I have assured my
daughter that these things come and go and they're no big deal. At my
house, she rarely exhibits these behaviors. At her father's house
(and they are very loving and concerned - but I feel sometimes limited in
their ability to grasp some things) she exhibits the behavior so much
that they are always calling attention to it and calling me to say
that it's going on. Now she's almost 11 years old. She knows they're
looking at her and they're worried about school. (She's been
previously home schooled, and in private school, but will attend the public
school in September). I've tried to explainto them that if they just let it
go, it will go away. She did have a concussion, which was followed by
EEG for over a year and there has basically been complete resolution
of the slight memory deficit that resulted. I have no intention of
putting my child on medicine because they're embarrassed by her behavior.
If anyone has any ideas as to how to deal with them (ever so gently of
course) I would greatly appreciate it. The stress she goes through
trying not to have them notice it, causes her to do it even more.
You might want to do some research into Turret's Syndrome. It is
commonly known for people who exhibit spontaneous behaviors like
yelling out, but many people simply have 'tics'. These tics can be
exacerbated in stressful situations. I even think the tics can
change over time. I'm not sure if there is medication to treat it.
People with Turret's (I think that's the spelling) are a cross
section of society and don't seem to have any mental disabilities
associated with it. (my business school professor had it - very
successful, established man). The reason I know only a little bit
about it is because I saw it on 20-20/60 Minutes and have heard people
speak on the subject.
I was very interested to read the posts regarding tics in small
children. I never would have referred to what happens to my daughter
as a "tic" but it sounds very much like some of the others that have
written in. Ever since my daughter was several months old she will
do this thing where her back stiffens, her mouth opens and contorts
and her hands open and shut rapidly. It only occured when there was
some excitement going. At first I thought she was having some kind
of seizure. The doctor said it wasn't a seizure because she doesn't
ever lose consciousness (her eyes don't glaze over). She still does
it at 5 under exciting or stressful conditions, but I notice she's
more self-conscious of it - even though my husband and I have made a
concerted effort to not draw attention to it. If she sees me seeing
her doing it she immediately tries to stop, although stopping seems
difficult and she kind of convulses while trying to stop (the way your
head might convulse or shake when you drink a strong drink). Now that
someone has mentioned Turret Syndrome it made me wonder if there's
actually something that can be done. I must admit I'm concerned that she
may be the object of ridicule for it when she starts Kindergarden in
in the Fall. Does anyone know any more about Turrets and whether
this sounds like it may be Turrets? (July 1999)
Could 8-year-old's tics be genetic?
I was so relieved to see the posting about this subject today. Thank
you. My 8.5 year old daughter has suffered from these for over 2
years. She has had all but the eye-rolling, but also had a way of
distorting her mouth, opening it really wide about every 3 seconds.
We have a history of tics and stuttering in our family. My daughter
sucked her thumb until about 2 years ago, and I did it until I was
ten!! I also had severe tics at the age of 7.
We are also in a joint custody situation and try as I will to make it
her father or the other household's "fault", her ups and downs with
this seem to not always be traceable to specific occassions or
locations. Her father does point it out to her way too much in my
opinion, and I agree with the posting that it's something best left
Recently her father divorced again and for a month or so this made
the tics worse. I put her into a group for children of divorce in
in Lafayette, and the therapist carried on about it to an extreme,
I thought, saying that she was "in crisis". Well, having been a
single parent and had a great deal of emotional upheaval for 8 years,
I am loath to run out with a firehose anymore on each "crisis" that
a specialist identifies. Her moods, appetite, energy, sleep, are all
GREAT, and those are my gauges. She also opens up about various
stresses in her life to the divorce group, which I find comfortingly
To make a long question short: Could this be genetic? Any history in
your family of nervous tics?
As a contribution to the discussion of nervous tics. According to the
research on Tourette's Syndrome, it certainly can be a genetic factor.
There is a lot of information on this condition at the Tourette Syndrome
Association web site--tsa.mgh.harvard.edu.
However, keep in mind
that Tourette's Syndrome involves both verbal and motor tics, and that
many children develop nervous tics that go away over time, without ever
having a diagnosis of TS. As a parent of a child with TS, I certainly
have found that downplaying the tics (motor and verbal) works best. If
it's something very irritating, especially when it's first beginning, you
could just mention that they seem to be forming a new "habit" and maybe
suggesting something to do instead that's less obtrusive, irritating.
(This works well for things like chewing on clothes, while ignoring tics
and working on the stress is probably more effective for things like
eye-blinking and head jerking). ONe teacher suggested giving our son
something to play with in his hands--wax, clay--as an alternative when
nervous habits were a problem. (July 1999)
Oliver Sacks has written some interesting case studies of adults with
Tourette's Syndrome. He also gives a fair amount of detail on TS in
a form that even a non-biologist like myself can understand. I believe
they were published in "An Anthropologist on Mars."
There's a wonderful documentary on Tourette's called Twitch & Shout.
It's on PBS and is available (I think) through the Berkeley Public Library.
Could tics be genetic?
From my experience, I would tend to guess yes. Regarding your 8.5 year
old daughter, it sounds like you know her best and would be the one most
likely to know when she would be in need of more help. I personally
have dealt with maybe 8 different tics throughout my life. They too
come and go. They only really bothered me. Only a few people in my
life ever said "Hey what's wrong with you" or something to that effect.
I also have obsessive-compulsive disorder. I've tried medication, but
I'm the only one who really realizes I have it. The medication's side
effects far outweighed any benefits. I would call my case mild. It
doesn't affect my ability to get on with my life in any serious way.
It's more bothersome to me. I will say that I'm late for just about
everything because of the rechecking of the stove and the door and
things like that. I check my alarm clock about 10 times before I lay my
head down. So I waste about a minute. Sure beats the side effects of
the drugs. The way I see it, I'm happy that these are the only
"problems" my daughter and I have and in the grand scheme of things,
that's not too bad. I just encourage my daughter to talk to me about
her feelings and have told her in no uncertain terms that this will go
away. That's they way she sees and believes it and the incidence has
certainly decreased in my presence. I have no concern what other people
will think, (but I know people who do) all I'm concerned about it how my
daughter is feeling, period. When I was in therapy, the counselor said
that some of my compulsions may have been my "safe" reaction to things I
couldn't do anything about. Not having any other coping mechanisms. I
wonder if this may be true about tics. Best of luck to you and your
6-year-old licking her lips compulsively
This is a problem that I intend to deal with in counseling, for sure,
but I thought I would run it by "The Crowd" here and see if anyone has
been through anything like this. Thanks.
I am a single parent with a six-year old only child. We divorced when
my daughter was 15 months. Her father remarried immediately and his
new wife has two children, now 14 and 12. The stepfamily members are
wonderfully loving and accepting of Halle, which is glorious for us
all, and i have a good relationship with the stepmom and kids, too.
Her father and I have very little contact and never fight around our
daughter. He also NEVER sees Halle. She goes to their house every
other weekend, Fri eve to Sun eve, yet he works Fri night and all day
sat and sun. The stepmom picks up all of the slack.
Over the past six months, Halle has developed a severe facial tic and
licks her lips until they're raw and look like clown's lips. Kids
shun and tease her, leaving her out of their games. It's pitifully sad
and of course I do a fair amount of projecting my own insecurities
onto her situation, which helps not at all. I try very hard not to nag
her about her tics, but she looks attrocious and in fact I worry about
scarring. I keep urging Vaseline and Carmex, etc., but she licks right
Anyway, I am writing not for suggestions on creams, etc., but to know
if anyone has been through a similar nervous manifestation with their
child. I intend to seek private counseling for Halle, because I cannot
claim to be able to help her with her father's absence or whatever is
causing this nervousness. In the meantime, any ideas as to how I can
at least not make her feel worse and maybe even help her? She is in
pain right now and does not want to go to school even.
On the girl with nervous tics, I would only add that, in addition to
counseling (and has she seen her pediatrician?) her mother should enlist the
schoolteacher's and maybe the principal's help, if she hasn't already. My
daughter went through an awkward phase like this at the same age: she
developed a nose-picking habit, and her classmates were merciless. She
became an untouchable in her class; it was social suicide to admit any
acquaintance with her. Her teacher and the vice-principal responded on two
fronts: the vice-principal had a talk with her about using a Kleenex, and
her teacher had a talk with her class about ostracizing people. Without this
comprehensive approach, she certainly could not have recovered from this as
quickly as she did.
My heart goes out to Halle. When I was six I began shaking my head all the
time. I remember going to the hospital to have an EEG. Nothing
physiological was wrong and the problem cleared up when my father stopped
traveling five days a week.
Here is a resource that everyone should know about: The Planetree Health
Resource Center, 2040 Webster St., San Francisco, near California Pacific
Medical Center (or whatever it is now called after a merger). (415) 923-3680.
They have up-to-date information on everything from traditional medicine to
aromatherapy, both for physical and emotional problems. You either can go
and do your own research (with the help of staff), or, for a small fee,
they'll do a computer search. For a larger fee, they'll do an extensive
The staff is warm and helpful.
I would like to put in my two cents worth on this concern, but preface it
with this: Have your daughter examined by her physician to determine if
there is any physical problem causing these symptoms (in a similar
situation, I made it a point to speak to the doctor privately first so
he/she knew the family situation and other relevant info); then get her
counseling (be cautious and take time in selecting the counselor-- your dr.
may have suggestions; it is best to get personal referrals, if at all
I have no previous experience with a child who has a nervous tic. However,
the lip licking sounds like it's so frequent it could be compulsive. Both
of these symptoms together would cause me considerable concern.
It is extremely painful for a child to be subjected to the rejection she has
received from her father. This could be traumatic enough to cause these
symptoms, or there could be something else in addition. Does she talk about
the fact that her father is never there? What responses does she get from
her step-family when she asks why her father isn't there? Has this neglect
by her father been going on even since the divorce? If so, that's a lot of
rejection. She's going through the motions of "visiting her father" on
weekends, but never having a relationship with him. This must be very
frustrating for her. All children need and want a father who will actually
parent them and be interested in their lives and who they are.
Until you have more information about what causes the symptoms, try hard not
to nag her about her tics and lip licking. She can't help it. It's a sign
of her pain. Make a list of things that are soothing to her and do them;
give her a lot of hugs and cuddle times. Read to her daily. Seek out group
experiences (your family, community, church, etc.) where she will experience
acceptance and have fun. Don't let discipline go down the drain; she still
I wish you the best throughout all this. Hang in there! Things will
improve once you get more information and a good therapist.
Thanks to all of you who have responded to my query about my
Pre-teen who has developed severe eye-blinking. I have one
more question. Do any of your children who have tics/ts also have asthma? My
child does and I am curious how/if asthma meds affect tics.
With regard to tics and whether asthma medicine may affect/cause them:
this is slightly different, but you may be interested. About four or
five years ago my son had a major systemic reaction to an antibiotic.
Among other things done for him, he was put on Benadryl for about six
weeks following the acute problem. During that time, he developed a jaw
tic. (He would open his jaw wide and move it side to side for no
apparent reason many times a day.) I asked a couple of doctors if this
had anything to do with any of the medications he'd been put on and all
said no. Finally, one allergist we saw said that an uncommon reaction to
Benadryl is to develop facial tics of that type. The tic went away
within a short time after stopping the Benadryl and has never returned.
(Please post anonymously. Thanks.)
this page was last updated: Feb 26, 2013
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2013 Berkeley Parents Network