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What to do if your child develops a tic

The most important thing to remember is that tics are not voluntary. Even if your child is sometimes able to control a tic by suppressing it, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to control their tics all of the time.

If your child develops a tic, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not tell your child off about their tic.
  • Do not try to stop your child from making repetitive movements or sounds, because this may cause them to become stressed, making the tic worse.
  • Wherever possible, ignore the tic because if attention is drawn to it, it may get worse.
  • Reassure your child that there is nothing wrong with them and that there is no reason for them to feel ashamed.
  • Speak to your child's teacher about their tic and perhaps seek permission for them to leave the classroom when their tics are particularly bad.
  • Make a point of educating other children about tics so that they are aware of your child's condition, and encourage them to react naturally.

It can be useful to develop ways for your child to explain their tics to other children who ask about them. This may help your child to deal with their tics and reduce any stress and anxiety that they are experiencing.

When to seek medical advice

You should take your child to see your GP if:

  • their tics occur regularly and are becoming more frequent or severe,
  • their tics are causing emotional problems or physical discomfort, or
  • their tics are accompanied by other worrying behaviour, such as anger, depression or self-harm.

Your GP may refer your child to a mental health specialist for specialist treatment.

Medical Review: March 20, 2009

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