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The Latest Tic

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Posted on : 11:19 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

The latest tic that we are experiencing here with Annie is lip-licking.  For those not familiar with a tic, it is 'usually defined as a brief, repetitive, purposeless, nonrhythmic, involuntary movement or sound. Tics that produce movement are called "motor tics," while tics that produce sound are called "vocal tics" or "phonic tics."'  (from a tourette's site)


The lip-licking is not any more annoying than any of the other tics - she simply licks her lips to the point that there is a red, raw spot all around her mouth.  Then it gets itchy and she scratches which makes it worse.  It sort of looks like she has a food allergy, but it's not.  

These tics are tricky, and are the one thing that could possibly get her a diagnosis (since they are so common with Asperger's).  Her first tic was when she was first learning to talk around 9 months - every word or short phrase ended with an extremely high-pitched squeak.  It's a sound I can't even imitate.  It was as if she had learned English from someone who spoke Chinese or one of those languages where the tone of the voice changes the meaning of the word.  We had to quickly become experts on breaking bad habits gently, because it was an ear-splitting sound.  We created a game where we always talked with a deep voice, and when she said something we would remind her to use it.  It got her to listen to her own voice and it gradually changed over time.  It took constant vigilance in reminding her though.  

She also chewed her thumb.  Even though I breastfed on demand, and gave her constant attention, she always sucked and chewed her fingers.  I always felt really bad about it because I believe that thumb-sucking is a sign of not enough breastfeeding or attachment.  But as she got older and I had another baby, I realized she sucked her fingers out of a compulsive habit.  And, she wasn't actually sucking her fingers, she was chewing on them.  We had to sew a mitten on her sleeve when she was about 1.5 because at night she would chew the thumb until it was raw and bleeding.  Now even though she's 5, her fingers are still in her mouth and she's a nail-biter.  That has got to be the hardest thing to help her stop, as she has the biggest attachment to it.  

A tic can be an involuntary whole-body movement too, and I think she has this as well.  She has an incredibly difficult time sitting.  Unless she is sitting in someone's lap and has that physical anchor of another body, she has to be standing, jumping, running back and forth, stomping... sometimes this gets overwhelming and it turns aggressive, into kicking and shoving.  These tics can only be redirected into some more constructive or creative activity, especially outside or in the tub.  

Why doesn't she have a diagnosis yet?  Well...we did get help from the public health people for her senstivity issues, but getting a medical diagnosis is a whole other ball game.  We have worked so hard with her that a little girl that couldn't play with other children or get herself dressed because she would scream now functions pretty normally. She loves to play with other kids, although a bit shy, and now she can get herself dressed by herself while screaming, rather than us having to coach her through it, lol.  She screams with frustration and it takes her a very long time, but at least she can do it on her own.  Because she is functional, and because we appear to be coping with it very well, we've been passed off as complainers or having inadequate parenting skills.  At least family now recognize her behavior as definitely autistic, and since we don't want her on medication unless she later fell into depression (which can happen with Asperger's), for now we are ok.  

Tics are interesting though.  I wish we knew more about the human brain.  Why do these suddenly appear, and why do my gentle reminders and games help break these habits? 

EDIT: After writing this morning, I read this post on Holistic Mama and it confirmed for me exactly how I feel, and perhaps why a diagnosis isn't that important to me at this point.  Thanks Mon! 

Comments (4)

Well that was weird seeing myself mentioned. You never know what's going to help someone when you blog.

Anyway, putting aside our own personal/emotional/spiritual needs, I wanted to comment on the whole getting help thing.

A friend of mine back in the UK struggled a LONG time to get the help she needed for her son, diagnosed, finally, with Asperger's.

I can't believe how difficult these things are made for parents. Despite the MANY children with various conditions, 'authorities' will still pass parents along as trouble-makers or complainers. It amazes me.

I also admire parents who put so much effort and love into helping their little ones deal with whatever life has handed them.

One thing though is that my friend never made diagnosis the focus of hers and her son's life. This seemed to make a significant difference to the quality of thei relationship.

Oh my gosh, it is so good to read this today. I am struggling so much with this issue right now. My DS11 has many signs of Aspergers, but we don't have a diagnosis and I'm not sure if we want to get one or not. I feel anguish sometimes over this--would a diagnosis ultimately help or hurt him more? That is the question!!!

I hate the idea of every kid having a label, and he or us saying "well, he has Aspergers" to explain a behavior or whatever. (although, to be honest I already kind of use that!)

Like you, I breastfed on demand and attachment parented and have worked hard at loving this boy into feeling better about life.

Lately I've been noticing more of what you talked about in this post, though--tics. I didn't even know they were called that. Eli has been doing some repetitive movements, and eye things, and stuff that I though might be stimming but actually a tic might explain it better.

Anyway, I appreciate what you've written, mainly because now I know there are others out there with this same issue. And it sounds like you're like me--you've known something was "off" about your child, have studied up and know in yourself what's going on, but are not sure if a diagnosis is best or not. Wow, that's so like me!

Hey Lisa, I'm glad it helped! Sometimes I don't like to talk about it but I realized that if I can talk about it without judging it helps me release some frustration and it might help someone else. It's much more common than people realize and it's good to know you're not alone. :)

Have you checked out the site "lifesatwitch.com" from Dr. Duncan McKinlay? He is amazing. There is actually a "museum of tics" on his sight with taped/videotaped tics.
He diagnosed my son, Ben, with TS. Ben has severe sensory issues, anxiety etc and this website is very useful. Lots of articles.