Will my baby have Tourettes? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. I’ve also wondered if my anxiety and OCD tendencies will be passed down as well, which leads to the next question. So what if Jelly Bean does have my struggles? What then?
They’re not questions easily answered. To begin with, there’s the question of the heredity of Tourettes. Will my child have the same tics that I do? Will the tics be worse or better? What if it’s really severe Tourettes, the kind that draws rude stares and comments from complete strangers?
Tourettes and Heredity
So what really causes Tourettes? In short, researchers can’t identify one specific cause yet, but it’s not for lack of effort. They have discovered, however, that there are quite a few patterns in the way Tourettes reveals itself.
As to the likelihood, research shows that we honestly don’t know what causes Tourettes, but we do know that it seems to travel in families. MedicineNet’s article, “Tourette Syndrome: Is Tourette syndrome inherited?” states, “Evidence from twin and family studies suggests that Tourette syndrome is an inherited disorder.” The CDC article, “Tourette Syndrome: Risk Factors and Causes,” says that studies in genetics indicate that Tourettes is inherited.
This inheritance isn’t as simple as being double jointed or having a widow’s peak hairline. One possible cause for some cases of Tourettes comes from the SLITRK1 gene, according to the National Institutes of Health. It isn’t likely, however, that this mutation is the cause for the majority of Tourettes cases, as the article states there are too few people with Tourettes and this mutation to draw complete conclusions.
Another possible explanation for some cases, according to Medical News Today’s article, “Rare genetic mutation confirmed as a cause of Tourette Syndrome,” is another genetic mutation, this time having to do with the disrupted production of histamine in the brain. Again, this genetic mutation can’t account for all cases, however. Just possibly some.
The majority of Tourettes cases, however, seem to come from a combination of mutations and genetics that are passed down through families, as well as possible brain damage in some cases. Here are 3 statements from the CDC that sum up what we know about Tourettes.
- Genetic studies have indicated that TS is inherited as a dominant gene, with about a 50% chance of parents passing the gene on to their children.
- Boys with the gene(s) are three to four times more likely than girls to display symptoms of TS.
- TS can be triggered by abnormal metabolism (breakdown) of a chemical in the brain called dopamine.
The CDC states that other possible factors such as the mother drinking or smoking during pregnancy, birth complications, a low birth weight, and infection (such as PANDAS – Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal) might influence the development of tics, but more research is needed to be sure.
Medicine Net says that while early research indicated an “autosomal dominant mode of inheritance” (The presence of one gene was all that was needed in order for the child to receive the disorder, as shown above with a widow’s peak example.), more recent studies have shown that it’s probably more complicated than that.
So while that chart above demonstrates the simplicity of autosomal dominant mode of inheritance (the easy punnet square we all slaved away over in high school biology), it’s probably not how Tourettes is handed down. Tourettes just doesn’t seem to be as simple as the presence a single dominant gene.
This makes sense to me, as Tourettes is so different for everyone. I have a milder case, while others have very severe cases. My tics are going to be different from every other person with Tourettes on the planet. Some people end up with Tic Disorders (milder than Tourettes), while others end up needing treatment for the severity of their Tourettes. Tourettes may be often passed down from parents to children, but it’s definitely not cut and dried in how it shows up.
So What Then?
The big question, however, really isn’t if my child will have Tourettes. The question comes down to what happens if he or she does. What will my reaction be as a parent? Will I be devastated? Will I try to act like it’s not there? How will my character show through as my child encounters difficulties of any kind in his or her life?
But that’s just the point, I think. I know my love now will not even be able to compare with what I feel as my baby grows and changes, but I do know that my first instinct is to protect this baby. I love this child the way I’ve never loved anything or anyone. And yet, I must come to the realization that my child will have to face challenges. Everyone does. That’s a large part of what makes us human, growing and learning through trials and lessons in life. As much as I hate to think about it, it will be healthy for my child to encounter struggles that I cannot solve.
I’ll be the first to admit that my experience with Tourettes, OCD tendencies, and anxiety attacks hasn’t been all hunky dory. I went through years of being ashamed of my tics, trying with everything in me to deny that I was different, to pretend the struggles to blend in weren’t there. But as I look back, I realize more and more that my struggles are a large reason for who I am today. The trials were not easy, but God used them to strengthen and grow me in a way no other lessons could have.
It’s only right and fair that I entrust that part of my child’s growth to the Lord, and that I allow him or her to become the person he or she is meant to be. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I feel at peace. Psalm 139 says that God is weaving my child fearfully and wonderfully as he or she grows. He is fashioning and shaping my baby into the person he or she is meant to be. His hand is the one that’s placing everything lovingly into place. If He chooses to allow my child to experience trials through neurological disorders, then I trust Him with that.
Will it be easy? Not by any means. It will hurt the moment I see my child blink too many times or the first time he or she has an anxiety attack. It will be a daily struggle to know when to intervene, when to seek help, when to counsel, and when to let my child work things out on his or her own. But I will not love my child in spite of his or her differences. I will love my child for whom God made him or her as a whole. For that is exactly how He loves me.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a child with Tourettes, or are you a parent with Tourettes? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share your thoughts and questions 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!