7 Things to Help Reduce Tics!

Editor’s note: We welcome blogger AndreaF back to TSParentsOnline with a follow-up to her popular post from a few years ago. What are your experiences with these methods to reduce tics? We’d love to hear from you.

7-tipsBefore my book came out I was blogging pretty regularly for the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome. One of the posts that garnered 61 comments was on Five Things that Can Help With Tics.

A few years later, and with more research, I have decided to update the list a bit for new parents who keep writing me with the same question.

Question: How do I fix the tics?

Answer: There is no one-size-fits all answer. Every child is different.

What Can You Do If You’re Freaking Out About Tics?

I’m no doctor, but after 10 years at this I can passionately state that all kids tic for a variety of reasons. I, personally, didn’t feel medication was the answer right off the bat for my son. It still isn’t. If it got severe enough, of course I would consider it, but so far it has not.

Here’s what I tell all parents who write me with concerns over their ticking kids. I tell them to ask a few important questions – the same ones I asked myself.

Questions to Ask if Your Child is Ticking

  • Could there be vitamin deficiencies happening?
  • What kind of environmental stressors could be worked on? (Less tension at home, less electronics?, etc.)
  • How much sleep is your child getting?
  • What kind of exercise is your child getting?
  • What does your child’s diet consist of?

It’s Up To You!

None of these questions are meant to either shame or suggest there are simple answers for complicated tic issues. Again, each child is different. My suggestion is to go to a naturopath and have your child evaluated for his/her individual condition. If you are low on funds (which I was) you can start with the basics and see if this helps. It helped in our case and I hope it helps in yours!

supplements

5 Things to Help With Tics

  1. Magnesium: I gave my son 500 mg of magnesium a day, and it really helped with his eye rolls and vocals. For some little kids this might be too much, but I’ve been told the worst thing excess magnesium can do is cause diarrhea. Now my son takes a calcium/magnesium supplement as the magnesium is best absorbed with calcium. The ratio is double the calcium to the magnesium.
  2. Gluten Free: It was a pain, but it helped, and continues to help enormously. He can concentrate more and can fall asleep quickly. When he was not gluten free, it would take hours for him to settle down. He is still a high energy kid, but much less so now.
  3. Dairy Free: Ditto the gluten. It was a pain, but we’ve found many ways to supplement his calcium through rice milk, vegetables and fruit.
  4. Sleep: 10 hours of sleep a night is crucial and a huge tic reducer.
  5. No artificial flavors or preservatives: My son is very sensitive to chemicals. They can set tics off like bees around a honey pot. Not worth the sting of excess tics except on special occasions.

2 Other Supplements * Talk to you Naturopath first * 

6. NAC  – Standing for N-Acetylcysteine, this is an amino acid that can be purchased at any vitamin store. This natural supplement acts as an antioxidant and glutamate modulating agent.

According to this webinar, featuring Dr. Mark Mintz, “They (a study) found the N-acetyl cysteine decreased symptoms of trichotillomania (hair pulling) compared to placebo. It makes theoretical sense as NAC can modulate dopamine. So, there are reports that NAC can improve mood disorders as well (such as obsessive compulsive disorder). There needs to be more research and reports to have a better handle on the effects of NAC in Tourette, but it appears to show some promise.”

7. Taurine – I talk about Taurine here. My son is currently on 500 MG but I think he could use 1000. That said, I will talk to my naturopath first!

What have been your experiences with tics? Did any of you find it made a difference for your children? What about in some of your cases where tics were more severe? Would love to hear!

Until next time, may God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

Tip #2 to Limit Tics: Exercise

1I won’t lie. My kid like to exercise as much as the Kardashian girls like to wear clothing. But never the less, it’s needed. I have no grand illusion that exercise is going to rid my kid of any particular vocal or physical tic, but it absolutely makes a difference in his mental energy.

And mine.

For the past nine months he’s taken a tennis class at the local park. It’s once a week only but there’s nothing more hilarious than watching a bunch of tween nerdy boys running around the court banging balls at each others’heads. I mean… it’s excellent exercise and great at controlling Dopamine production!

Every day but Fridays we walk to school. It’s as much about talking as it is about the walking. Given he’s now 13 (oy, can’t believe it) I’ll take all the bonding time I can get.

A few weeks ago, after our local city holiday parade, my daughter stayed with my husband to do some cleanup for the Kiwanis club. My son and I walked the whole three miles home. Despite some pretty steady vocal tics on his part, it was hard for me to worry about it or be frustrated. The sights of the floats, the sounds of Christmas music blaring through the radios of the viewers, the many dogs and babies waddling through the crowd… it made me happy to be alive.

Him: “Mom, I really want a new Nintendo DS for Christmas.”

Me: “Why? You already have a computer and a tablet.”

Him: “You already have a bunch of coffee cups, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy another one, right?”

Me: “Yes, but my hobby is a lot less expensive than yours.”

Him: “True, dat. But come on, Mom, don’t you ever want something just because it’s awesome and fun and you can’t wait to get your hands around it?”

Me: I wanted to shout, “Yes, it’s called you! Stop growing so fast!” Instead I went with, “Yeah. Yeah I have.”

And then he slipped his hand in mine. For the next mile we walked side by side, our fingers entwined. With his head at my shoulder, I can already tell he’ll surpass me by summer. I took it in… every step… and thanked God for him. For the walks. For everything.

And right there I made a commitment to have joy and gratitude in 2016 no matter what. So far, I haven’t missed a day of good old fashioned positive thinking. That’s exercise I could get used to.

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PS: And as life would have it – the moment I decided to stop living in my comfort zone (fear and worry) the tics went away. The reason? Jesus appeared in my morning Yuban and blessed me with the Holy Spirit of Tourette Syndrome TAURINE. More later. (Tics down from even last post!)

Until next time, May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you can’t change, change the tics you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

What’s A Tic? Part 3 — Treatment & Management

What Are Tics

There are multiple forms of treatment and management for individuals with tics:

  1. Medication – I’ve never needed medication myself, but for some people, medication is what really helps them get their lives back on track when the tics are too much to handle, and there’s nothing shameful about it.
  2. Diet – While I don’t believe diet will cure true Tourettes, I know that my tics get a lot worse when I don’t eat healthy food. The way I see it, your brain will only function as well as the fuel you put into it.
  3. Exercise – Because many tics are often related to anxiety, exercise is a great way to both lower anxiety and lower tics. After really strenuous workouts, I can often go 10 to 15 minutes where I don’t even feel the need to tic. (Heaven!)
  4. Behavioral Therapy – According to Tourettes Action in the UK’s article, “Behavior therapies and Tourette Syndrome,” behavior  therapy is being used to help some individuals with tics by helping them learn to be mindful of what their brains and bodies are doing.
  5. Deep Brain Stimulation – This is the type of treatment talked about in the video clip posted above, only used for the most severe cases, as it’s still considered experimental.

One of the most important parts of treating and managing tics is simply the diagnosis. Once you know you’re dealing with tics, it can be easier to pinpoint and manage with the help of a primary care manager, family, and friends. It’s also important to remember that a diagnosis of a disorder with tics isn’t the end of the world; we must remember that under the tics is still the individual, and that person is a beautiful creation of God who’s simply struggling with the burdens of life like the rest of us.

Do you have any information on tics that you’d like to share? What about questions? I’d love to hear your comments and questions, so please post them in the Comment Box below. Also, don’t forget that if you sign up for my weekly newsletter, you’ll get extra resources on neurological disorders, as well as a gift in thanks for signing up. Thanks for reading!

What’s A Tic? Part 2 — Tic Classifications

What Are Tics

There are different classifications for tics, motor vs. vocal (Do you do it with you muscles or with your voice?) and simple vs. complex (How many muscles groups are involved in the movement?) As I said in part 1 of this 3-part series, there are all different kinds of tics, so many that there isn’t a definitive list of what can be a tic and what can’t. Why? Because every person’s body and brain is different. This means the tics his brain comes up with will be different from those of his neighbor with tics.

I created this table based on information from Mayo ClinicTouretteSyndrome.net, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeTSA-USA (one of the leading support groups for individuals with Tourettes in the United States), and my own personal experience:

Common Tics

The tics listed here are some of the more common tics found in people with Tourette. My first tic was blinking, which was then followed by throat clearing, Squeaking, and my lip touching tic. My tics showed up as many tics do. Rapid, repetitive blinking is seems to be considered the most common first tic that shows up in children with Tourette Syndrome or tic disorders.

There are more extreme versions of tics that can be found in more severe cases, however. Probably the most popular one is Coprolalia, or the infamous swearing tic, where individuals who suffer from this particular tic can blurt out socially and culturally inappropriate words and phrases. There are a few things to know about Coprolalia, however:

  1. Coprolalia is found in only 10% of people with Tourettes, according to Live Science’s article, “Why Does Tourette’s Make People Curse Uncontrollably?” (I’ve heard 5%-15% from other sources as well.)
  2. Live Science also says that Coprolalia is said to be caused by some form of neurological damage, although we’re not sure why yet. It can also be found in individuals with
  3. The individuals who do suffer from this disorder don’t do it for attention or fun. In fact, it can be highly embarrassing when it does occur, and as with other tics, must be treated with care and kindness.

Because Tourette Syndrome (and tic disorders) are on a spectrum, the severity of tics will differ in individuals. My Tourettes is fairly mild so my tics are generally manageable with good diet, exercise and self-taught management techniques. There are some individuals, however, who have symptoms so severe they interfere with safety and health, such as this young man here:

Medical Miracle Tourettes

Self-control is very difficult with Impulse Control Disorder

There are things my son says and does that are out of his control. I only wish more people would be understanding of this, especially people that he is around almost daily. Not only is he living with Tourette Syndrome, he is also struggling with other underlying disorders, one of which is Impulse Control Disorder.

Within his impulse control, he may say things at the wrong time or make a joke at the wrong time. Inside his mind, these are totally acceptable. He may call someone a name — “stupid” or “idiot” — and not realize that it is going to hurt their feelings. He may burst out with anger saying things that are really offensive toward those he loves and later apologize because he realized his actions have hurt someone.

He has a lot of anger built up every day, and he has no idea how to deal with it other than letting it out. He has gotten so much better at releasing it through stress exercise; however, nobody is perfect. So I ask that, if anyone who is around a child like Kane hears this, or sees the rage, please understand nobody but that child knows what is going on inside.

I love my little stinker to the moon and back! 

Why one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to ADHD

There’s often a pattern when it comes to the many different treatments of ADHD. Each one shows improvement in some children, but not in all. Each treatment needs to be carefully regulated by parents and pediatricians to make sure none of the treatments overlap in a way that could be dangerous to the child. Some of these treatments target specific symptoms of ADHD, but not the others.

These precautions, in conjunction with the different forms of ADHD, mean one thing: there is no one “cure” for ADHD because there is no one expression of ADHD. Each child’s treatment will depend on all sorts of factors such as:

  • Type of ADHD
  • Health
  • Allergies
  • Learning Style
  • Other Disabilities
  • Safety at Home
  • Good Nutrition

And this list is by no means exclusive. My point is that it’s not fair for parents to be judged for not trying a new “miracle cure.” The children I’ve worked with in different schools and in tutoring generally thrive under multiple sources of assistance. Some of the management strategies may surprise you, too. Most benefit from a mix of medication, a balanced diet, and these non-medical treatment sources:

  • Exercise – In the article, “Taking Away Recess Bad for ADHD Kids, Experts Say,” Thomas Lenz, an associate pharmacy professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska,  says that exercise and ADHD medications act on the brain in very similar ways. In addition, according to NOVA’s article, “The Science of Smart: A Surprising Way To Improve Executive Function,” exercise is one of the best ways to improve executive function struggles, a symptom most children with ADHD struggle with.
  • An Organized Home – Children with ADHD often struggle to pick up basic organizational skills and habits such as having one spot for homework or knowing how to follow a basic evening routine. ADDitude Magazine’s article, “Help Your ADHD Child Organize Homework,” stresses that it’s important for parents to work with their children to develop healthy organizational skills as they grow so they’re more prepared to carry those skills into the world with them.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is often an effective treatment for individuals with OCD, but experts are finding that it can be helpful for children with ADHD as well. U.S. News Health’s article,  “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help With ADHD,” says, “CBT for children with ADHD is aimed largely at improving their behavior through praise and rewards that motivate them to calm down enough to cope with school or other challenges.” The article states that while CBT won’t cure ADHD, it helps children learn thinking and self-management skills. If mastered, these skills can last far beyond any medication.

Different Kids, Different Needs

Parenting a child with ADHD is not an easy task by any means. It’s time consuming all the time, and it takes a lot of trial and error. A certain diet and medication that works for one child will probably not work for the next. And on top of that, children’s dosages and treatments will need to constantly change as their bodies and brains grow.

If you’re the parent of a child with ADHD, don’t let people guilt you into only one form of management for your child. No matter how much they promise you “just need this one treatment,” odds are that your child will have his or her own needs that are mixed and multifaceted. The best you can do is try, and when one treatment doesn’t work, don’t consider yourself a failure. Simply move on to the next and know that you’re doing your best. Your attempts to meet your children’s needs will encourage his or her teachers and other supporting adults to do the same, and as a team, you’re giving your kiddo the best chance he’s got. And isn’t that what every parent wants?

Do you have experience with ADHD management? What are you thoughts on the issue? What was successful for your, or what wasn’t? Please share your thoughts in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and spiritual encouragement. As always, thanks for reading!

Exercise-induced anxiety

Exercise Induced Anxiety AttacksWhile researching for another article, I happened upon a discussion thread about anxiety attacks and exercise. While science has shown that exercise generally lowers anxiety by producing endorphins in the brain, a number of individuals stated that as much as they want to exercise, doing so induces anxiety attacks for them. Obviously, this is a problem. We need to exercise for health, as well as to lower our stress, but how can we do that if the exercise itself produces anxiety attacks?

To be honest, I’ve noticed a similar problem sometimes when I exercise. It’s usually after I’ve been on the bike for about five minutes, right when I’ve gotten warmed up and have raised my resistance on whatever machine I’m on. My heart starts to pump even harder than I expected, and suddenly, distressing thoughts and images come to mind. Worst-case scenarios present themselves, and I feel a quick bout of near depression. My first instinct is to jump off the bike. If I started feeling that way while exercising, isn’t it best to separate myself from the situation?

It’s More Common than You Think

Summer Beretsky wrote about a similar experience in the article, “When Physical Exercise Feels Just Like A Panic Attack for Psychology Today. In it, she talks about how her doctors and friends told her over and over again how getting in shape and exercising regularly would help her lower her anxiety. There’s a Catch-22, however, she says, “exercising made me panic.” 

Livestrong.com’s article, “My Anxiety Gets Worse During Exercise,” also notes the struggle for some people who who have anxiety. The article notes that adults are often more aware of signs of anxiety attacks after they’ve had one, which means they’ll be on the lookout for anything that seems like an anxiety attack later on, even if it’s not.

Both articles note the same thing: Anxiety attacks and exercise share certain symptoms, the first being increased heart rate. This means faster breathing, as well as a rush of adrenaline. I’ve also read in online discussions that increased sweat production bothers some people. We can see how it’s easy to confuse the two. And honestly, if you’re trying to avoid anxiety attacks, the last thing you probably want to do is put yourself in a situation where it feels like you’re having another one.

So we know the symptoms match, and we know that it’s easy to confuse exercise and anxiety attack symptoms. The question is, what do we do about it?

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Tourette’s & Pregnancy: Trimester 3, Part 2

This post is all about the “secret weapons” I am using to combat the anxiety and everything else that comes with being pregnant and having Tourette Syndrome:

Exercise

I was thrilled to tell my physical therapist yesterday that I got a stationary bike for my house, the kind with the back support. An older patient chuckled and said I wouldn’t have to worry about using that after my little one comes. I smiled back to be polite, as I know he meant well, but deep down, I have to admit that it frustrated me.

People who don’t have chronic anxiety or tics often don’t understand why exercise is so important to me.

I know I shared this picture in my last post, but I'm just so stinkin' excited about my bike and balance ball!

I’m so stinkin’ excited about my bike and balance ball! To them, it might not mean a whole lot to stop exercising, but for me, it’s not just an activity – it’s a necessity. I’ve had to cancel at least half of my exercise plans during the second two trimesters because of back problems, nausea, and all the other fun things that pregnancy brings, but I could always tell when I’d cancelled too often. My tics would jump, and so would my stress.

Because simply getting to the gym can be a hassle (and will be even more after Jelly Bean arrives), I decided I needed to tackle my problem from another direction. I researched exercise bikes and then purchased a simple, somewhat inexpensive one for my home, along with a balance ball. Those, combined with the small sets of weights I already owned, made up my new home gym. It was pricey, but to me, keeping my stress levels down and my health up is worth it. That way, after Jelly Bean comes, I’ll be ready for some quick rounds of exercise whenever the time presents itself.

I’m not saying I’ll get in an hour every day, but from the first day I’m allowed back on that bike, I will be. Exercise will be a priority because I’m making it one. The only way I’m going to keep myself healthy and at peace enough to properly take care of my family is if I’m taking care of my own anxiety levels first.

Now about my diet …

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My word of the year: DISCIPLINE

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It has occurred to me recently that whining and complaining is not all that it’s cracked up to be. At some point in one’s life, it becomes necessary to actually do something about what they want changed. This realization didn’t happen for me with doobage and unicorn rainbows shooting out my arse at a yoga studio run by a guru named Spirit Chevrolet. It happened for me at a red light on my way home from Target.

I had been stewing and stewing all day about finding work and putting away Christmas decorations and making school lunches and “Why can’t I just get a break I am working so haaaard?” when a little voice came into my head with four words that pretty much changed everything. “Shut the hell up.”

“Excuse me?” I thought to myself. But I felt that same voice tugging at me. Call it God. Call it my inner voice. Call it an angel with an attitude. I don’t care. For that moment, I sat in my own truth — the truth that it was up to ME to do something different. I knew this already, but it wasn’t until that moment that I really knew.

For many  years, I wanted the tics to change.

I wanted people to change to make me feel better about my life.

Since those fantasies didn’t actually translate into real life for me, it was now time for me to change myself. A few excuses I had for whining, complaining and basically throwing a big boo boo tantrum for the past few months included,  but are not limited to:

  • I shouldn’t have to do all that social media stuff to get a job in this town. I’m a WRITER
  • My husband isn’t changing into a beacon of flexibility. Why should I become the poster child for responsibility?
  • My friends aren’t giving up wine. Why should I have to?
  • My kids aren’t worried about cleaning their room. Why should I clean mine?
  • I am too tired to exercise. I think I’ll just grow a spare tire and enjoy the wonders of armpit hair.

At the end of the day, I can either give my power to my husband, the tics, family obligations, my work, my kids or the dog, or I can give the power to me. Choosing me is kind of scary, because who the heck am I? Who the heck are you?

This question changes everything. It leads to destruction or transformation. It leads to failure or success. It leads to darkness or light. When we know who we are, we can be who we need to be. And when we are enough, no tic, person, place or thing can touch us. It’s not every day that I have this kind of epiphany, but between you, me and the street light, I’m glad I did.

From 6 to TS to 12 in the blink of an eye

Um, Stink is 12 now. I mean, really, how is this possible? He’s gone from a short-haired, Scooby Doo obsessed 6-year-old to a shaggy haired, book reading, computer playing, comic writing tween. I mean, that’s insane.

dom

Didn’t I just write this article when he was first diagnosed at 6?

It’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with TS. I have my days of hand wringing over sounds and movements, but it’s a heck of a lot better than it used to be. Part of that is a healthy dose of acceptance on my part. But a lot of that is just that I love my kid for who he is becoming. I am letting go of fear, day by day, and working on my own spirit. If Stink can be comfortable with the sound of his voice, than why can’t I be comfortable with mine? It’s time.

I wish, knowing what I know now, that someone had written to me at the early stages of this journey. It would have helped to know that my son would be okay. That I’d be OK, too.

If you’re new to this journey, I can promise you that it’s all going to be alright.

I’m not sure what your plans are for 2015, but mine is discipline. It’s time to carve out time — every day — to do things that matter. When I do that, I am a happier Andrea. Then I’m happier mom. I am a better friend. A better wife. And a better daughter.

Each morning I begin with a small prayer from a devotional. At 5:30 am.

Yup, I need Jesus if I’m up at that hour. But you know what? When it’s me and a cup of coffee, I can either think good thoughts that renew my mind and hit the gym, or crazy, spinning, “Oh, God, what’s going to happen?” thoughts that just feel toxic.

I don’t have big expectations for myself at the gym. 100 calories on the treadmill and I’m good. It’s not about getting in amazing shape physically. It’s about putting myself on the machine — one foot in front of the other. I matter.

As moms of kids with special needs, it’s easy to forget who we are in the process of life. We’re always trying to fix things — make things more comfortable for everyone. But as a friend, Adelia, once pointed out to me, “All boys at 12 have special needs.” Ain’t that the truth. Last I checked, tics or not, no tween boy was ever normal. And most I know are as obsessed with video games as Stink.

For me, it’s time to be obsessed with getting back to what I love most: writing. Three days a week I’m going to blog again. (Hold me to it!)

Along those lines, I’ve got this book just sitting in my hard drive. Truthfully, it’s been rejected by 3 big agents. They loved the query, but said it was too niche. I kind of just, well, stopped sending it out. But really, that’s dumb. It just takes one agent to say yes. And I can always self-publish. The main thing is to go with my heart and hopefully affect someone in a positive way.

In my next few blog posts, I will share with you the dedication, introduction and Chapter 1 of my book “Happily Ticked Off” for you to read if you’re interested.