Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tourette Syndrome Primer

In hopes of broadening the scope of my posts I recently started a new series where I will try to highlight one special need and if possible a hero who, in spite of their challenges, inspires all of us to reach a little higher. I've been collecting a list of sorts of various special needs. If you care to comment here I will add your suggestions to my list. This evening's post came to me via twitter direct message from father and author, Robert Martinez.

Mr. Martinez has recently published a book about his son, Brandon, who was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 7. I have not read the book (yet) but I did read a short excerpt posted on his website. This brief look at Brandon's struggles definitely made me want to know more...especially with the tease of knowing that "Born to Play" is the story of how Brandon eventually is chosen as the seventh round draft pick for the Dodgers (you know, professional baseball!) I'm just imagining the various hurdles, barriers, social pitfalls and physical exhaustion that had to be overcome to get to that place.

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder that manifests as involuntary movements and vocalizations (called tics) often occurring at the same time. Generally these tics are evident before age 18 and for a formal diagnosis must be present for more than a year. Infrequently the vocalizations can include obscene or socially inappropriate speech - this is widely publicized but does not actually occur very often. I was interested to learn that echolalia, often associated with autism spectrum disorders, can also be present in TS. Echolalia is a pattern of speech where the affected person repeats their own words or others' words. Many people affected by TS also struggle with learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anxiety and depression. The educational and social challenges associated with TS and these co-morbid conditions can be devastating. TS was first described in 1885 by a french physician by the name of Georges Gilles de la Tourette. The direct cause of TS is not known. There is a clear genetic component as often several family members are affected by tic disorders. Interestingly, again like autism, boys are 3-4 times more affected than girls. For mild cases of TS, treatment consists of support, education and "watching." Depending on the severity of these conditions, medications are used to bring the tics under control, such as:
  • clonidine (Catapres)
  • guanfacine (Tenex)
  • risperidone (Risperdal)
  • haloperidol (Haldol)
To learn more about TS, I recommend visiting the National Tourette Syndrome Association.


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