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Aspergers Teens and Tics

Question

My son is 16 years old and has developed a severe tic. He shakes his head and moves his shoulder up and makes a grunting noise. This has only happened in the last few weeks. Could this be stress due to gcse's coming up?? He is becoming extremely anxious about it as everyone notices it!!

Answer

Aspergers (high-functioning autism) can have many complications such as tics. Tics are rapid sudden movements of muscles in your body, or tics can be sounds. Both kinds of tics are very hard to control and can be heard or seen by others. However, some tics are invisible (e.g., toe crunching or building up tension in your muscles).

Simple tics involve just one group of muscles and are usually short, sudden and brief movements (e.g., twitching the eyes or mouth movements). Some simple tics can be head shaking, eye blinking or lip biting. Simple vocal tics can be throat clearing, coughing or sniffing.

Complex tics involve more than one muscle group and are longer movement, which seem more complex (e.g., jumping, hoping, touching people, hitting yourself or pulling clothes). Other complex vocal tics can be repeating words of others or yourself all the time, or repeating out loud what you have read.

Tics may increase as a result of negative emotions (e.g., stress, tiredness or anxiety), but positive emotions as well (e.g., excitement or anticipation). These emotions are often experienced in those diagnosed with Aspergers. Therefore, tics in kids and teens with autistic disorders can be more common. A strong urge can be felt before the tics appear. With intensive therapy, these urges can be suppressed. When tics or urges to have tics are suppressed, there can be a build-up of other tensions - or even stress. Often when the tic is gone, those who suffer from it feel a sense of relief.

Whenever kids with Aspergers focus their energy on something else (e.g., computer games or watching TV), their tics tend to decrease due to the resultant relaxation effect.

My 8 year old grandson with Aspergers has several simple tics and a few complex ones. His tics appear mainly in his face and are very visible to others. He twitches his mouth and eyes all the time. He bites his lips in various ways so the skin around it is always red and irritated. Even though he feels the urge to do so, he seems unable to control the movements. He is in tic therapy for this, and as a grandfather, it is painful to see this expression of anxiety or stress in your own grandson.

Bottom line: Try not to worry about it too much. It will go away once the child grows older or is able to express his feelings in another way. Most kids with tics will be "tic free" sooner than later.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

In my 6 year old son, I notice when he is stressed he coughs a lot, which seems to be more like a tic than being cold-induced. Does he have access to anyone who can help him with relaxation techniques? Have you spoken to the school staff about accommodating his needs during testing? If he is coded, by law they have to help him with the anxiety if it is part of his Asperger's.

Anonymous said...

After doing the Feingold.org diet and switching to organic eggs, my son's Tourette's calmed WAY down, so much that we were able to take him off meds. That was a few years ago. We still do Feingold and try to stay as organic as possible, and grow our own organic eggs. Whenever he's exposed to pesticides, his tics go off the chart.

Anonymous said...

Do you think he could be suffering from a co-morbidity of tourettes as well? Those two syndromes are actually genetically very close.

Anonymous said...

I had a breif period of ticks with my son that were caused by a mineral deficiency. I don't remember exactly it may have been potassium. If you do some looking online you will find the same info. Your son's could be stress but it helps to look into all the possible causes.

Anonymous said...

Our son has both autism and tourettes. At first we thought tics might be stims (and he had some stims prior) but we have a family history of tourettes and over time, it became obvious he had pretty classic tourettes. Three weeks is not long enough to know, however. It could be stress induced. Some kids with ASD can have tics and not have tourettes. Whatever the reason for tics, stress (and things like hormone surges and illnesses) can make them worse.

Anonymous said...

I agree that stress can kick the tics into high gear. My son goes through phases where they get better and then worse. Normally we can tie it back to stuff going on at school. The hardest part is that he isn't aware of them so he can't control them. We continue to work with him on recognizing the tics and the situations they occur in and finding the root cause. Good luck. We got past the touching our penis on the soccer field about two years ago. That was the hardest one for all of us to deal with socially.

Anonymous said...

Our son (5) mostly does it when he's anxious but have noticed him making other gestures / noises when he's watching tv or on his Ds he gets so engrossed. Hope it settles for him & the exams go well.

Anonymous said...

My daughter has always had her little tics and noises but they only seem to come over when she is having anxiety over something or something's scares her

Anonymous said...

Anxiety. My sin tucks and stutters when he has anxiety. Also, certain meds could cause some ticks. Diet does work. We are on a high seretinin whole grain diet which helps

Anonymous said...

It could very well be stress. They may have been there more subtly and they could be increasing. I have similar issues as well as my son. Since it came on suddenly, however, has he had strep recently or been sick? There is a condition called PANDAS that can come on from the strep bacteria. I'm not real familiar with it, but a teen I know locally had it. Here is a link to some information: http://intramural.nimh.nih.gov/pdn/web.htm.

Anonymous said...

My 7 y/o cranes his neck involuntarily when he's stressed. And whenever there's a change in what he's doing he yells. When the movie changes direction, or theres a commercial in a tv program or his game changes he yells.

Anonymous said...

My son is ready to turn 9 and he goes through phases of different ticks. He used to constantly scratch his head, then it was a growl and now he constantly makes a noise like he's clearing his throat and growls! it can be really embarrassing for him as he sounds like he's ready to spit and often people ask if that is the case and he gets really annoyed as he's aware of it and has the opinion that it's really no one else's business what he does. I've taken on board the info from others posts as I think he suffers high anxiety and I wasn't sure if I could help him. Thank you for the info. :)

Anonymous said...

My son also has ticks...actually he got them way before he was ever diagnosed with aspergers....our kids really DO have allot in common...it's amazing!

Anonymous said...

My son had tics for awhile. We worked with the Courage Center here in MN to address them. They were stress related. Also, we found that there was a brushing technique we could do for him each day that helped to relieve the tension and stress that took the tics away.

Anonymous said...

My son has a couple of different tics as well - we have found that he developed them due to his auditory and speech processing tendencies.

Anonymous said...

I have been wondering what my 6 yr old son has been doing! He recently developed a tic that sounds like clearing your throat. I know he cant help it, because it even bugs him and he cant stop. Its not all the time, he can even go a whole day with out doing it. How do I help him? I am guessing its stress? this is new. Its a little bit of a relief to see that other moms' kids are making the exact same sound! Should he see someone to make sure hes not anxious or stressed? Whats the next move when you notice your child is having tics?

Anonymous said...

As an educator and an individual with Aspergers, tics are a daily part of my life. They occur more when I am stressed. Diet and counseling are the best treatment. Group therapy works because the individual doesn't feel isolated all children go through these cycles but express them in different ways. Action is the best medication tics are an individuals signal that they are overloaded.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Finland,

I finally found your email address from your www.myaspergerchild.com site.

My name is Tuomo Leppänen and I'm a father of 12 year old boy with
semantic pragmatic language disorder with strong Asperger features,
hyperkinetic ADHD and some Tourette features. It has been now over a year
when I find myself to www.myaspergerchild.com site.

I don't know if you have checked my comment on this article, asking for
permission for a translation,
(http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2009/08/connection-between-semantic-pragmatic.html)
, but I did it finally to my native language finnish to my own blog
http://neurologiset.blogspot.com/2011/04/onko-semanttis-pragmaattisella.html.

The information I got from this article opened my eyes to my son
condition. It explained so many open questions. And my translation has
done the same to others, who don't understand english.

I'm sorry about this email coming so afterwards.

If this translation is not ok for you, let me know, and I will remove it
from my site.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

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