Parenting is often extremely difficult. It can be even more so if your child receives a diagnosis you find difficult to understand, such as Tourette Syndrome. In this kind of situation, it’s normal to seek information and to try and understand what’s happening and how you can help.
This clinical disorder gravitates around the presence of tics, defined as ‘movements or vocalizations that arise without warning, quickly, repeatedly, and without rhythm’ (APA, 2022). However, there are several diagnostic labels linked with tics. Here, we’re going to explore Tourette Syndrome.
“It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to have Tourette Syndrome. People don’t understand what it’s like to have a tic eight times a minute.”
The American Psychiatric Association, in its latest revised edition of the DSM-5, states that this syndrome occurs when four criteria are met. A child as young as between the ages of four and six might receive a diagnosis. The criteria for diagnosis are as follows: (APA, 2022):
- Onset is before the age of 18.
- The frequency of the behaviors can increase or decrease but they must’ve been observed for at least a year.
- There are multiple motor tics and one (or more) phonic or vocal tics. These must’ve been present throughout the child’s development. That said, they could manifest alternately, instead of simultaneously.
- Other conditions have been ruled out. For example, the physiological effects of the consumption of certain substances (such as cocaine) or other disorders (such as Huntington’s disease or postviral encephalitis).
A year has been established as the duration criterion because it’s a way of being sure that these symptoms are persistent and not sporadic. This is important since most tics in childhood are temporary and end up disappearing over time (Cortés et al., 2022).
There are no specific tests (like MRI, CT scan, blood, or other medical tests) to diagnose this disorder. But, professionals can detect it through a clinical interview. Indeed, a diagnosis is always useful. It allows more fluid communication between professionals, as well as a decrease in family discomfort in the face of symptoms (Carmona et al., 2022).
“There is no cure for Tourette syndrome, but there is a lot that can be done to help people who have it.”
What can you do to help your child with Tourette syndrome?
As a parent, giving your child the best environment will be a top priority for you. In this regard, a guide has recently been published. It provides information, as well as guidelines for action. Moreover, it focuses on parents of children suffering from this clinical disorder.
Firstly, you might ask the professional who made the diagnosis. The psychologist, Cristina Carmona Fernández, one of the authors of the above-mentioned guide, also makes certain recommendations. They’re as follows (Fernández et al., 2022):
- Continue with their usual routines. Even though you might fall into the trap of modifying their daily schedules, this is unnecessary.
- Continue behaving with them as you did before you knew they had the disorder. Try to avoid punishing them or treating them differently.
- Find out what they like. If you want to give more value to the bond that unites you, talk to them and find some points and activities that you both like. Then, enjoy them together.
- Focus on their strengths. You’ll probably be surprised to learn the many positive characteristics they possess. It’ll also give you some really special moments with them.
- They may be experiencing difficulties in the academic sphere. If this happens, contact a professional in the field, such as an educational psychologist. They have the potential to provide you with extraordinarily important help in these difficult times.
- If you feel alone in all the chaos of the diagnosis, it could be useful to look for and contact an entity or foundation related to the disorder. They usually hold conferences, workshops, and meetings. In fact, you may well find other families in the same situation as you.
- Screens can be overwhelming for sufferers. Indeed, devices, like cell phones, tablets, and TVs often aren’t good for tics. Therefore, try to ensure that your child spends their time wisely with them.
Ultimately, it’s essential to continue with your child’s usual routines and not show any changes in your behavior.
As we mentioned earlier, an excellent way of finding out how to help your child with Tourette Syndrome is by directly asking the relevant team of professionals. After all, they interviewed and evaluated your child, so they know how to provide you with the most appropriate and tailor-made advice so you can provide them with the support and help they need.
In addition, you must maintain consciousness on one unequivocal point. This is the fact that your child must continue to be allowed to be themselves. Consequently, dealing with them as you’ve always done is one way of reducing the tension of a situation that, in itself, can be extremely stressful.
“People think Tourette’s is just swearing, but it’s so much more than that. It is a complex neurological disorder that affects many people, in different ways.”
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