Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Dad's Perspective: Painful Tics and a Lack of Understanding

Our son has developed a tic where he licks/spits onto his upper arm (clothed or not) and then wipes his mouth with the length of his arm (similar to how a child might wipe their runny nose with their sleeve). He does this very frequently, and especially when reading and doing schoolwork. And it's to the point where the skin around his mouth has become extremely chapped and peeling. Having Tourette's myself, I know how frustrating my tics can be, but I'm amazed at how well he takes his tics in stride. But I can't imagine anyone looking at the resulting skin abrasions and thinking that someone would voluntarily perform these actions to themselves. So it was to my great surprise, and extreme anger, when our son informed us Friday that a substitute teacher had gotten on to him for doing his tics, saying something like "you'd better stop licking your shirt." And that this continued even after he told her this was a tic. And I know from my own experiences that this only makes the tics worse.

It seems like just when we're starting to make headway with the school and they're starting to understand our son and his condition, something like this happens and my confidence drops. I'd like to think this will get easier as he is better able to articulate his needs to his teachers, but at this point, I'm not too sure that'll be the case.

If there is one thing you should know about Tourette's, it's this:  People with Tourette's cannot stop their tics any more than you can stop a sneeze.  You may be able to suppress the urge for a while, if the urge isn't overbearing, but eventually, it's going to happen.  And the more you suppress it, the bigger it's going to be once it does happen.  The best thing to do if you're around someone with Tourette's is to just ignore the tics. It may not be easy sometimes, but it's not easy for the person doing the tics either.


  1. Best line from HBO documentary " I have TS but TS doesn't have me" is "tourettes and substitutes don't mix!". Unfortunately so true.

  2. Grayden rubbed the skin on the sides of the bridge of his nose raw in the past. Before I knew it was tics I pumped him so full of allergy meds thinking it was itching. Come to think of it I pumped him full of allergy meds with the throat clearing tic too. I had no idea. Thanks for posting this blog! We can all learn so much from you guys.