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Tourette Syndrome

If your child has Tourette syndrome, learn all you can about it. Your child can get help.

What is Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome (toh-RETT SIN-drum) is a medical problem that affects behavior. People with Tourette syndrome make movements and sounds that they can't control. These are called tics.

Deaf children can have Tourette syndrome, too. Mostly boys have it. But girls can have it, too.

Different kinds of tics
There are 2 different kinds of tics: motor tics and vocal tics.

Motor tics are movements:

  • eye blinking
  • nose twitching
  • head jerking
  • facial grimacing (making strange faces)
  • jumping
  • sniffing
  • pounding on chest
  • spreading fingers apart

Some people have motor tics that involve hurting themselves, like biting their tongue or hitting their head on a wall. But this is rare. Most people with Tourette syndrome do not have this kind of tic.

Vocal tics are sounds:

  • throat clearing
  • tongue clicking
  • yelping or barking
  • repeating someone else's words
  • saying (or signing) bad words without a reason (But most people with Tourette syndrome don't do this)

When your child may have tics
Tics can start during childhood. But they can also start during the teenage years. Some people "outgrow" many or most of their tics. But some don't.

Your child may have more tics when he's stressed. But there are times when the tics can get better:

  • When your child is relaxed. Like when he's watching TV.
  • When your child is focusing on something that he enjoys. Like doing a jigsaw puzzle or reading a book.
  • When your child is asleep. Tics usually get a lot better or go away completely during sleep. But not always.

Many children with Tourette syndrome also have problems with attention and focus. Many have obsessions and compulsions, or act in a very rigid way. Some have learning disabilities.

What causes Tourette syndrome?
Doctors don't know what causes Tourette syndrome. But it does run in families. So if one of a child's parents has Tourette syndrome, the child has a greater chance of having it.

Sometimes a parent with Tourette syndrome has a child who does not have Tourette syndrome, but has a similar problem. Like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Next: The signs of Tourette Syndrome

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