Tics and Autism
It is estimated that 20-30% of people with Autism will be affected by vocal or motor tics, Tourette disorder or involuntary movement disorder. These issues can occur in conjunction with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Epilepsy.
- Involuntary- the person has no control over them
- Affect social interaction
- Can be either highly embarrassing for the person or may not bother them at all
- May wax and wane- i.e. be worse at some times and better at others- i.e. be Are very evident when under stress or tired.
- Often annoying for the persons family and friends
Sometimes tics are treatable with medication
Tourette disorder is life long but not degenerative
Some people have some control over their tics but only for short amounts of time, the tic then has to be released and a burst of tic behaviour may follow.
Tics are not often violent or include swearing like in the movies.
Tics are classified as:
Motor: Rapid eye blinking, facial grimacing,
Vocal: Throat clearing, Sniffing, Yelping, Shouting, and Grunting
Motor- Jumping, touching people or things, twirling about, tapping,
Vocal – Uttering words or phrases, uttering obscene words, repeating sounds or words just heard or repeating ones own words.
- Tic disorder is characterised by symptomatic episodes lasting no less than 12 months and the sufferer goes no more than 3 months without symptoms.
- Tourette disorder is characterised by the occurrence of chronic vocal and motor tics with onset around school age, and sometimes worsening at puberty.
- People with Tourette or tic disorder can have tics over a long period of time and they may be mild, moderate or severe. The variety or complexity of tics is vast.
- Other family members may have Tourette disorder or tic disorder.
What to do
- Discuss with a paediatrician or GP of you suspect tic disorder or Tourette disorder.
- Depending on the severity of the tics and the impact on the person’s life the doctor may prescribe medication.
- Physical activity or creative outlets can help re direct energy and lessen tics
- Reduce stress
- Get adequate sleep
- Speak with a councillor or psychologist regarding the impact on life as tics can often be socially isolating and can cause depression.
Further information is available from Tourette Association of Australasia,. Canianto R, Vivanti G, Tics and Tourette Syndrome in autism spectrum disorders Autism 2007 vol 11 91) 19-28