Let’s Talk About Tics

No, not those creepy little bloodsuckers that give you the shivers — rather, let’s talk about those shivers! Or twitches or eye blinks or grunts or sniffs — any “sudden, repetitive movement or sound that can be difficult [if not impossible!] to control.” When talking about tics, Tourette’s syndrome, which is certainly a well-known representative tic disorder, is what usually comes to mind. But there are also several other variations. There are two primary types of tics: motor tics involve movement, and vocal tics involve sound. Story has had both.

Like any good, slightly neurotic mother, I’m a worrier. I watched Story carefully for any signs of autism, developmental delays, and motor function delays. Other than not being able to hop on one foot (just the sad-70990__180right foot, the left was fine) for a very, very long time, she showed no signs of a difficulty. And then she began to clear her throat. At first, I thought she just had one of the many colds circulating in preschool. But the throat clearing didn’t go away with the other cold symptoms. Then it became more frequent. She even interrupted her own talking to clear her throat! Nothing interrupts Story’s talking. I asked her about it, and she just shrugged. She hadn’t realized she was doing it. Her teacher asked her to stop or cough or do something to avoid disturbing the class with the constant gruff sound. That’s when it became worse. She cleared her throat ALL. THE. TIME. And she was fully aware of it now, apologizing each time and upset that she couldn’t stop.

There was nothing else wrong with her physically, and not wanting to give in to my all-too-common temptation to rush her to the doctor, I turned to research. What I found was very comforting. Although I never suspected it, it seemed that she simply had a transient vocal tic, a harmless temporary twitch of the vocal variety. According to WebMD, around 25% of children experience tics. What I also found to be incredibly interesting is that the tic has a tendency to get worse when the sufferer tries to suppress it or worries about it after it’s been spotlighted. Following recommendations from various sources, I stopped talking to Story about it and asked her teacher to do the same. The frequency of the throat clearing lessened, and eventually she just stopped doing it. The best part of this, though, was that she stopped being so self-conscious about it. When I quit noticing it, so did she.

She has recently developed another tic, covering her bottom lip with her top lip, and I’ve not said a word about it to her. Now that I can recognize it for what it is, I just see it as part of her charm.

Note: This post is not meant to provide any medical advice or discourage you from seeking medical attention if you feel you should! You know best.