Could It be Tourette’s Syndrome?

Maintaining My Poise

A few weeks into summer vacation, Liev came home from an afternoon of swimming with a new word: Fart.

Coincident with this, I was no longer “Mama.”

My son christened me “Farty.”

I should have ignored him, knowing attention feeds certain behaviors–but I love to lecture. I preached appropriateness and cultural norms. I discussed disrespect and hurt feelings. I diagrammed charts to organize his behavior.

Liev attended solemnly and gave every indication of having learned his lesson. Victorious, I gave myself copious pats on the back–my child would never call me “Farty” again.

The next day at breakfast, Liev blurted out, “Get me some juice, Farty!” I reeled, dumbstruck. He shook his head, “Uh-uhn, Mama.  Mama, may I please have some juice?” I examined his little face for mischief. None. I complimented his manners and made a mental note.

Three days later, the stupids arrived. Mostly, it was just the word “stupid” by itself, but not always. I heard a few “Stupid Mamas” and plenty of “Stupid Farties”.  Appalled, I wondered where this came from.

My encyclopedia of behavioral interventions failed to eradicate offensive words. Recalling his boozle hinking episodes, I decided to ignore him. This choice reduced both our anxiety, yet I was still awash in a sea of stupids.

Midsummer brought the shut ups. No amount of lecturing, positive reinforcement, or consequences helped. In fact, everything I did worsened the shut ups. He began shouting “Shut up!” at the TV and computer. He whispered “shut up” to himself as he read. And of course, there was “Shut up, stupid Farty,” addressed to me, or the cat, or Papa.

Ms. Michelle

Bewildered, I scoured forums, took data, and read books. At last, I consulted our respite provider, Michelle.  A blessing from the start, Michelle is a skilled school psychologist, savvy to all things autistic. Many of Liev’s baffling behaviors, she explained, stem from compulsions—irresistible urges.
If a sainted spot in heaven awaits wise and peppy school psychologists, the angels have a berth just for Michelle. Some form of OCD must underpin Liev’s behavior since OCD-specific interventions remedied many behavioral incidents.

OCD should not be a surprise. It thrives in our family.  I take a dash of meds to keep me from repeatedly checking the front door at night.  Nonetheless, after scrutinizing three childhood OCD books, I realized that OCD and autism did not explain our behavioral issues.

Tourette’s syndrome and autism, however,  matched our experiences with uncanny accuracy.

To be continued…

13 thoughts on “Could It be Tourette’s Syndrome?

  1. You are writing this all out brilliantly! I am learning so much and I am completely intrigued at the same time. Can’t wait for more! We have our own forms of OCD-ish behaviors over here. I do not know much about Tourette’s at all… I will most likely be researching soon.

    I have to admit I would probably start laughing hysterically if one of my children called me Farty. Though I despise any words that give the slightest hint of bodily functions, I would still find it funny for some reason. I would not, however, if they ever told me to shut-up or called me stupid. That would cause my lecturing skills to come into complete fruition. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Angel. We just got our Tourette’s diagnosis from our pediatrician today (Tourette’s and autism co-morbid), with a full neurological work up to follow next spring. I’m a bit tapped out and promise a more thoughtful reply soon!

      PS. Not sad about Tourettes, actually blissfully relieved–just super-tired from phone calls and appointments!

      1. I am happy for you to have answers! I will be thinking positive-bubbly-happy thoughts for you and hope that you get some “down time” to recover from all the social interactions!


    1. Thank You!

      We got our Tourette’s (co-morbid to autism) diagnosis today. What a relief! How many mothers shed tears of happiness over additional diagnoses? Heh! I now have some awesome new behavioral tools–that work!

      I look forward to sharing more soon! Thank you for your kindness and support.


  2. I hope in your next post (or posts) you will be sharing some of the behavioural tools you mentioned. I would be very interested in comparing notes. H has autism, tic disorder (AKA Tourettes), SPD, anxiety and other often co-occuring challenges. We should definitely compare notes some time 🙂


    1. Gasp! Awesomeness! I spent two hours consulting with an educator from the Tourette’s Association of America. What an eye opener! I have a ton of notes to synthesize (each post takes a week or two) but this will motivate me to work faster and obsess less!

      T is one of the minority of Touretters who has copro phenomena (coprolalia, et al.). I am learning to be the master of inventive redirection and cheerful clean up.

      I am excited to share notes with you. The TS is a recent development for us, although it has been going on since last fall. Thank you for sharing with me. I feel extra happy to find another in my boat! 🙂


      1. Yes!! Me too!

        The tricky thing is that we are not supposed to point out tics… at least that is what we were told. The difference between a tic and a stim has been an interesting thing to unwind as well – and then of course there are just plain old tendencies or habits.

        It is complex! H cycles through different tics – including eye blinking, neck and head movements, spitting, yelling out or squealing, etc., and I wonder at times about his blurting of surprising things. Currently we don’t do much about these – other than redirect as needed and work to be aware of stress and anxiety, in order to reduce these where possible. In a way H’s tics are kind of like an external measure of communicating his internal state.

        I am definitely interested in learning more…

        1. I think the hardest thing for us was to figure out what was happening. Our house is filled up with vocalizations. Papa and I are always singing, clicking, and making racket. We never noticed until it escalated dramatically.

          I hope to share some of what I’ve learned over the next few posts, but I must add that what you are doing is what we have been directed to do. I’ve been gobbling up chunks of google and hunks of literature. It takes time to process. I would feel proud to be able to help.

          Thank again, you for being so open with me. Just knowing we share these issues and solutions brings validation and courage.

    1. Thank you for visiting with me, Brenda.

      You are a role model to me and your comment means a great deal to me. I strongly beleive in accepting my son’s differences and using each unexpected incident as a chance to make another loving (though sometimes perplexing! ) memeory.


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