Recently, 21-year-old singer Jamie Grace spoke at a women’s conference and shared her struggle with Tourette’s syndrome. The first symptoms started when she was just nine, but she wasn’t completely diagnosed with the disorder until she was 11.
“My earliest memories are that it just started with my arms, my legs, my eyes and eventually it progressed into more often and that kind of thing so we kind of had to make a move,” she said in an interview with the Christian Post last September. “I know that I’m young, but back in that time, it really wasn’t as common as it is today. For two years the doctors and my mom went on Google trying to figure out what I had.”
The human body is as strange as it is wonderful. We’d like to think that we are always in control of our bodies, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, our limbs will jerk or move on their own, which can be disconcerting and even more so when it’s happening to our children. Usually it’s nothing to worry about, but not always. So, how do you know if your child is experiencing a short-term situation or something bigger?
What Is a Transient Tic?
According to Kidshealth.org, a transient tic is a sudden, repetitive movement or sound that can be difficult to control. The condition is usually temporary and affects up to 25 percent of children before the age of 18. The tics can be simple (involving a single muscle group) or complex (involving more than one muscle group.) Examples of simple tics include shoulder shrugging, nose wrinkling, head twitching, eye blinking, lip biting, facial grimacing, repetitive or obsessive touching and kicking. Complex tics are usually vocal and include coughing, throat clearing, grunting, sniffing, barking and hissing.
Fortunately, transient tics usually last for about three months. If they last much longer, the condition is considered a chronic disorder which may die down within a year or so. These sorts of tics can be either motor or vocal, but not both. Fortunately, chronic tics are much more rare – about one in 100 children will be diagnosed with a chronic condition.
How are Tics Diagnosed?
Despite what we parents might think, tics are not easy to diagnose. Sometimes, when a child appears to have a chronic tic, he or she might actually have a case of Tourette’s Syndrome, which is the most severe as it involves both motor and vocal tics. The severity of Tourette’s may change as well. A child may go through a period of time of little activity followed by weeks of much busier activity. Most children who have to deal with Tourette’s find that the symptoms lessen as they get older.
What are Possible Treatments?
Treatments for children with tics vary from doctor to doctor as well. Sometimes the tics will stop all on their own. However, when the tics get so bad that they interfere with a child’s daily life, medication may be prescribed. The effectiveness of the medication also varies. Something Jamie agrees with.
“Back in the late nineties… there were a lot of experimental medications. Personally, I don’t do any today, but I did for about three years and they did help, but as I got older and went to college, I went more and more the vitamin route, but it also has simmered down to where I don’t have to. It’s on a very case-by-case basis.”
It is said that one of the best ways to combat tics is to not concentrate on them. Of course, that is like telling someone to not think about elephants. Once you do, that will be all they think about. Other ways to curb tics are to avoid stress-filled situations, try to get more sleep and when you feel a tick coming on, don’t avoid it.
When asked if Jamie was every upset with God for having the disorder, she said, “I cried, yelled and screamed a lot. But I actually think that it helped in a way because I would just often times scream at God and just ask God, ‘why?’ and I would have this assurance from my parents and from my sister and from my family, as they wrapped their arms around me, and say things like, ‘You might feel frustrated, but this is not the end.’ It was like they were saying, ‘As big as your frustration is, God’s love is even bigger.’ It’s hard to believe, but when I began to grasp that, it all started to change.”
Tics in themselves are not horrible things, but they can cause stress in the patient as well as their parents, which will only lead to making the tics worse. Fortunately, parents can access the National Tourette Syndrome Association’s website (whose saying is “I have Tourette’s but Tourette’s doesn’t have me”), which offers lots of resources and support group information.