How do I know if my child has Tourette Syndrome?

Below is a checklist of some of the common tics that are symptomatic of TS. Be aware that children can often have an independent tic without having TS.

Tics can range in form and frequency. Some people experience mild tics like facial twitches while others might jump up and down or shout out or repeat words.
Tics can range in form and frequency. Some people experience mild tics like facial twitches while others might jump up and down, or shout out or repeat words.

Tourette’s is a combination of both physical (motor) and vocal tics that are involuntary and repetitive. The tics have to have been present for at least a year before the age of 18 for a formal diagnosis to be made.

As you read through the list you will likely tick (sorry!) a number of the boxes. In that you are not alone. Your child is completely normal – in the world of TS anyway.

TS is neither a progressive nor degenerative disorder; rather, the tics tend to be changeable and will wax and wane over an otherwise normal life span. Each person will display different tics with varying frequency and severity.

Motor and vocals tics are categorised into two types – simple and complex.

Simple motor tics are fast and meaningless while complex motor tics tend to be slower and may appear purposeful. Simple vocal tics tend to be noises that often appear as just ordinary sounds like sniffing or coughing.

Complex vocal tics meanwhile are more intrusive such as repeating certain words or phrases such as ‘oh boy’ or ‘all right’ or repeating a phrase until it sounds ‘just right’.

Simple motor tics

Eye blinking or rolling; facial grimacing; nose twitching; shoulder shrugging; arm jerking; head jerking; head nodding; finger movements; mouth opening; jaw snapping; rapid jerking of any part of body

Complex motor tics

Hopping; jumping; touching objects; twirling; gyrating; bending; head banging; kissing; licking; pinching; facial gestures; copropraxia; echopraxia.

Simple vocal tics

Throat clearing; coughing; spitting; sniffing; snorting; screeching; barking; grunting; clacking; whistling; sucking sounds.

Complex vocal tics

Repetition of phrases like ‘shut up’, ‘you know’ and ‘oh boy’; making animal noises; muttering under one’s breath; complex breathing patterns; stuttering; variations in speech like accents, loudness, rapidity, tones, rhythms; coprolalia; palilalia; echolalia.

Definitions:

  • copropraxia – repeating obscene gestures
  • echopraxia – imitating actions of others
  • coprolalia – saying inappropriate things at inappropriate times
  • palilalia  – repeating their own words
  • echolalia – repeating sounds or words said by others

Material sourced from The National Organisation for Rare Disorders, USA.