Demystifying Tourette Syndrome: What Parents Need to Know

Demystifying Tourette Syndrome: What Parents Need to Know

A Tourette syndrome diagnosis can be troubling for parents and kids alike. But, the earlier one receives a diagnosis, the better equipped everyone is to manage the condition.

Dr. Robin Jack, pediatric neurologist at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, shares important information for parents and caregivers who suspect or receive a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome for their child.

Signs and Symptoms

Tourette syndrome involves both vocal and motor tics. If parents start to notice their child is making persistent involuntary movements, such as eye blinking and facial grimacing, or making noises like sniffing or coughing, the first step is to discuss any concerns with their pediatrician.

Sometimes, these expressions will disappear in a few months. If tics remain, or cause the child problems (e.g. disrupting their ability to function in the classroom or cause painpain), parents should seek out a consultation with a pediatric neurologist. The neurologist will perform thorough physical and neurologic exams, as well as conduct a family history assessment to determine a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome.

Dr. Jack also looks into additional comorbidities. “Children with tic disorders do have a high probability of having associated symptoms such as ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety,” she explains.

Managing Tourette Syndrome

Once a diagnosis is made, education takes center stage—educating the parents, the child, and any setting the child is a part of, such as school or daycare. If tics are severe or disruptive, medications may be introduced, but this is usually a last resort.

“Unless the tics are significant or interfering in some way with the child's life, we try to avoid medications. A lot of times with some classroom accommodation and understanding of what's going on, we can avoid medication,” states Dr. Jack.

A specific type of behavioral therapy  called comprehensive behavioral intervention can also be used for tics. This therapy combines habit-reversal training, counseling and symptom recognition strategies to help children learn how to manage their tics.

Diagnostic Outlook

According to Dr. Jack, 60-75% of people who have tic disorders see symptoms diminish as they get older. “The tics will become much less frequent, much less bothersome and in many cases will completely go away or be so subtle they are not an issue in the person's life. For most people, the tics do get better into early adulthood,” she assures.

In the meantime, the primary goal is to reduce the stress put on the child in as many ways as possible. Again, this goes back to ensuring parents, caregiversand school staff are informed.

“Working with the school and school counselors can be a huge help for these kids to make their life a lot less stressful andmake their school life a lot more productive and happier,” shares Dr. Jack.

To learn more about Tourette Syndrome, individuals can find a breadth of information from the Tourette Association of America’s website.

**To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Dr. Robin Jack, pediatric neurologist at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, please follow this link:

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