Our experience with video games and tics

It’s been busy but productive as we slowly but surely put our house in order after our post-Christmas madness.  There’s something deliciously satisfying about puttering and organizing when there’s not a ton of pressing “must do’s” crowding the task.

Instead of being a chore, it becomes a delight as taking the iron out the closet results in finding that stray shoe or the random picture of Pipsqueak as a newborn sucking off my cheek for nourishment.

Rex did about 10 loads of laundry. Pipsqueak did a lot of reading. I checked in on my mom, whose hip is slowly healing. As a family, we all took a dip in the YMCA pool during Family Swim time. And Stink played the Wii.

Ahh, yes, the Wii.

Many of you might recall a fierce battle played on this sucker, and it wasn’t between Stink and first person shooting character. It was over the damn plumber, Mario. This post, along with many prior, detail our epic exchange.

My issue with Mario, and the Wii in general, was two-fold:

  1. It seemed to bring on more jerks than a political campaigning team.
  2. Stink’s obsession with talking about it at home, at class, in the car and with friends and family (including folk he didn’t know but could perhaps spare a few moments to shoot the shxxt about mushroom magic) was ANNOYING. It was affecting his school work, and more important, my sanity.

The final nail in the coffin arrived after one mother at school 00 a particularly intense woman who cooks organic, gluten-free and dairy-free with the same tenacity as a dog gnawing on a grass-fed cow bone — drove the point home that video games was about the worst thing a parent could give her children. Her points included many from this article (though this is not the one she gave me) as well as from this book: Failure to Connect.

“We’re off the Wii, just like we had to take you off the DS!” I told Stink. “Your body can’t handle it!”

Stink cried, I breathed a sigh of relief, but then something crazy happened.

He ticked anyway.

Not sure if it was the pressure from state testing. The new Intuniv we were on for focus. The dander from some cat 10 miles away that got kicked into our smog-filled air and landed in his nostrils on a windy Thursday morning while he was lagging getting into our fry smelled dirty SUV for one more day of almost being late to school. But the tics were back with a vengeance.

So it wasn’t the video games only!


And that is when, after a lot of contemplation/meditation/prayer, I decided to let Stink play the video games again. He doesn’t have free reign. He has limits.

Stink’s Video Game Routine

  •  NONE Monday – Thursday
  • Friday – One hour after school
  • Saturday – One hour (with breaks in between)
  • Sunday – 1/2 hour after church

Rules for Play

  • He gets a timer (a piggy timer, to be exact). He turns the little fat pink head for 30 minutes and plays. If he goes over, he loses out on the next 30 minutes.
  • I use it as incentive to get chores done in addition to his current jobs. “Hey, Stink, I really need my car cleaned! Tell you what… spend 20 minutes cleaning out the school papers from 2009 and I’ll give you five more minutes on the Wii!” It’s amazing incentive.

My Current Thoughts

Stink’s tics are still a minimal, so like some folk who like wine, I’d rather not throw away the baby with the bath water. Have a glass of Mario here and there. If you start slobbering like a fool and can’t concentrate on your family and friends because you’re drunk on electronics, it’s time to detox yet again.

As for the mom who ferociously clings to her manual for nonelectronic child raising, she also followed me out to the car a few weeks ago to tell me that she was doing “Just a little research” on rubber ducks — one of Stink’ s many collections — and said that some have been recalled from China or some place exotic due to chemicals or crazy toxins. I suppose that is why the duck Stink gave her son was sitting outside her door step.

For her, no snark intended, that’s a fine way to parent. For me, it’s a bit on the fear-inducing side. I say “Duck You” to extremity. Like my kid’s toys, if a little squeaking results from a whole lot of fun (within reason) then I am okay.

Is your child affected by video games of any kind? I would love to know.


  1. As an adult with tourettes who grew up with nearly every video game system under the sun, I can tell you that I do tic more while playing video games. But that’s what happens when I get excited, and video games get me excited. My parents used to take my games away because of my tics, but I don’t understand what they were trying to achieve. My tourettes syndrome still exists and will never leave, regardless of whether or not I play video games.

    I don’t resent them for this because it was the early 90s and there was no internet to look this stuff up and get opinions. But nowadays there is no excuse. Don’t take away something a child likes just because it makes them tic while using it. It doesn’t do any good and isn’t fair to the child who never chose to have tourettes syndrome.

  2. Our son has tourettes and when he plays the Wii his ticcing only increases. So does his anger and inability to calm himself. We have to limit his time on the Wii or say no altogether. We have never bought him a DS or any other hand-held device. When we do let him play on our phones he has a hard time getting off and becomes angry. We make him play outside so he can run and play.

  3. Michelle, I’ve also noticed that my son gets a bit more tickier (is that a word?!) when he does things relating to games and computers. I think he also has sensory issues, although he was never diagnosed with them. There’s got to be something to the sensory input of media, thoguh, wouldn’t ya say?

  4. @Michelle – Yes, I totally agree with you on all fronts, from the knowledge that tics come and go, to the limited time, to the bargaining chip. The bargaining chip, actually, is what I learned last, and was probably the most important component in teaching him self-regulation. Which, btw, he’s AWFUL at. Impulse control issues and T.S.? What? : )

    PS: Michelle, do you blog here? Want to?

  5. I have noticed that my son’s vocal tics sometimes seem worse when he plays on the iPod Touch for an extended period of time, but not always. What I have come to realize is that the tics come and go, despite what we do (and we’ve done a lot). So, I’ve made my peace with electronics. I think it is far better to teach responsibile electronic usage than to outlaw it. I like the rules you provided, although I’m a little more lenient: we do an hour a day over here. It is the best bargaining tool we have, and you need a bargaining tool to raise a child with neurological impairments in my opinion.

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