Observations by Key Monroe~~Home of Right Opinions, Cynical Viewpoints, and TMI in Hefty Doses
|E-mail: keymonroe [at] alltel [dot] net

February 02, 2005

Jittery Kid

Although I have been fostering children for three years, and have dealt with an array of emotional and behavioral issues, with every new addition I seem to be introduced to something new.

My foster son has nervous tics. I am not a nervous person. In fact, I am laid back to a fault. So, admittedly, I don't get it. But always up for a challenge, I felt confident that I could coax him out of this problem myself.

It started with heavy blinking, and enough nailbiting to result in swollen, cuticle torn fingers. I began making him aware of the blinky thing as he did it, and that seemed to work, eventually subsiding. Unfortunately, I've never been able to catch him in the act of nailbiting, so I began wrapping the fingertips every night, and coating them with a nailbiting deterrent. But although improved, they still look pretty rough.

The new issue is the head shaking. The quick and tiny head toss that we might employ in order to get a fly out of our face, he has adopted as his new thing. He does this constantly. He also makes faces, sniffles, and coughs.

I've requested a psyche eval, but of course, these things take time, given that a government agency is in charge of making the arrangements. And even then, these things have proven amazingly useless in the past, so I decided to do a little google research myself.

This is the first link under "nervous tics." Apparently Tourette Syndrome is amazingly common and can be quite mild. Great. But I'm still in the phase of this process where I'd like to deny that as a possibility.

However, I have NO experience with nervous tics. No close friends, no one in my family, no personal testimonies, nuttin... So, I'm voting for stress as the cause, given what this poor child has been through in the past year, and given the fact that he does have a nervous personality.

Of course, I publish this in hopes that someone - perhaps one who is more exposed to this sort of thing than I - will come along and tell me that this is no biggie.

Update: Wow. Thanks guys. I am floored by the responsiveness of my readership. I really appreciate the comments and the emails, though I haven't returned the first one. Between appointments and work, today seemed to have strange evaporating powers. I will keep you guys posted as we progress, however. For now, he had a good day at school today! Baby steps, dontchaknow...

posted by Key on 05:39 PM | Comments (8)

Crap. I just lost my whole comment.

Anyway. It sounds like he might be ADD/ADHD. These children often present with tics. My son says words that he likes over and over again or just blurts them out like "DUCKY!" or "POTATA!". His new one because of his love for these silly behemoths is "HUMMER!, hummer, hummer, HUMMER!". He also hums incessantly. This drives his brothers bonkers. My brother-in-law is 54 and also ADD. He clears his throat, a-hems, snorts and all manner of odd noises. He is not yet on medication, but is in the process of getting a psych eval, etc. because it is getting worse. He's been this way as long as I can remember. My niece is also ADHD and has a litany of odd behaviors, most notably a weird hair flip and a face-twisting snif. Children and adults with ADD/ADHD can also have all manner of physical tics that come and go and change with time.

If your foster son is in public school, you can ask your school counselor to give you and his teacher a questionnaire for a basic evaluation. Your pediatrician can make a more definitive diagnosis. Any good physician will also refer you for a psych evaluation to ensure that there is not another problem. If your physician does not refer you for a psych eval as a part of the diagnosis, be suspect and get a second opinion. If the psychologist thinks there might be other problems, they might refer you to a neruologist. This is not likely, though, unless they suspect Tourette's, etc.

His problems might all be solved with a daily dose of a Ritalin derivative. With the correct drug and dosage, the child does not get "drugged up" and you don't lose their true personality, you actually get more of the "best" of the child and less of the frustration.

I hope that you can get your foster son the help that he needs and that this is indeed an easily helped thing like ADD and not something worse. I vote for the more minor diagnosis, myself. That's just my unprofessional, experienced mom opinion. Hope that helped and eased your mind a little.

Posted by: Momotrips at February 2, 2005 06:24 PM

Key, my ex-husband has Tourette Syndrome, so I'm very well-versed in it as well as the co-morbid disorders. The good news is that lots of people with TS do quite well, and many of them do extremely well. If you'd like more info, feel free to e-mail me. Good luck - even if it is TS, it's not the end of the world. :-)

Posted by: Kathleen at February 2, 2005 07:24 PM

Hi Key,
One of my foster daughters had an array of emotional and mental disorders...the least of which was Tourettes. In her case though, it seemed that as we treated some of the other problems she had and she was able to get a bit of her self esteem back, the milder the tics became.

The best advice I can give is this: remember in foster parent class, they told you that a sense of humor is probably the most important trait that a foster parent can have? Yeah...it will never be more true than it is when dealing with a child with a nervous tic. A sense of humor will keep you from strangling well meaning grandmas in the checkout line who are convinced that the child is possessed or experiencing an epileptic seizure because of verbal and motor tics. Thankfully my foster daughter didn't have verbal tics with profanity..they were all 'qu' words. One of her words was 'quick!' and it came in quite handy at restaurants and in long lines. 'Quiet!' confused the hell out of the dogs and smaller children in the household, who weren't making any noise LOL. As an adult, my foster daughter has outgrown most of her tics, except for the nail biting and foot tapping.

Bottom line, love the boy...tics and all. Chances are, he'll grow out of it but if he doesn't, the best gift you can give him is the ability to find the humor in it.

Posted by: Chablis at February 2, 2005 09:07 PM

I have Adult ADD and have those sorts of nervous habits. NOt the eye twitching and head bobbing, but the nail biting. The only way I can keep from biting my nails is to put acrylics on them and get them done every two weeks like clockwork.

My mom, in my opinion, exacerbated that habit by forcing me to focus on it by reminding me I was doing it all the time. If I were you, I'd just lay off and not bug him about it. I'm saying that as someone who is a chronic nail biter. It doesn't help, and may actually make things worse.

Just try to ignore it and give him alot of love and support. Don't pick at it. It makes it worse.

Posted by: catzmeow at February 3, 2005 12:59 PM

Put kid in neck brace, chop off fingers; that or trade him in for a new one. I'M JUST KIDDING!!!

U-Mich studies conclude that behavior like this is quite common, usually due to stress, boredom, frustration etc., and generally is just a phase. Tourette's is a possibility, but is probably over-diagnosed.

I DO NOT believe in ADD/ADHD, it's just a scam...kids these days have day-care, pre-school, kindergarten, all of which tend to suppress the native energy all kids have. No wonder the little bastards go crazy...they have no outlet for that boundless energy.

Ignore the bad habits, reward the good, or sit the kid down and talk to him...he probably knows why he is doing it. If he can't verbalize it, you might pick up some clues. Could very well be just an attention thing. If he's had a rough background, he could just be needy...probe gently until you find what he needs. For God's sake, don't throw him on the tender mercies of psychiatrists/psychologists (fucking witch doctors), they'll just drug him into submission!!!

Just my VERY humble opinion. *grin*

Posted by: Dr. Wayne at February 3, 2005 01:07 PM

Dr. Wayne, I have to disagree. I have six year-old triplet boys – all completely different. I have my very own little controlled experiment in all manner of behavior. One is very verbal and an auditory learner. He has a little temper, but is a good reader and a diligent student. One has boundless energy and is moving all the time - strictly kinetic. However, he has no trouble concentrating, staying on task, paying attention, controlling his impulsiveness, knowing the bounds of personal space, staying quiet when appropriate and doesn't get the feeling that his head is going to explode when under pressure and over stimulated. He is a good student that aims to please. I would never think of giving him medication to “slow him down”. This is not the case for my son that is ADD. Without medication he simply cannot control his impulses or keep focused. He is completely scattered, though gifted intellectually. He forgets to do things that he does every single day of his life and has to be reminded. He is easily distracted. His mind wanders and he daydreams. He must be hounded continually to stay on task. On the other hand, if he is interested in something he becomes so engrossed that he tunes out the entire world and can stay focused on that one thing for extended periods of time. Even though he is by far the most intelligent of my three boys, he has the least confidence in himself and finds it hard to make and keep friends because of his odd behavior. With the proper medication he is able to stay focused and do his work and keep his mind from wandering. His sweet personality is so much more evident and we are able to enjoy him much more than when we constantly have to nag him to do his daily tasks or to pay attention.

My niece’s ADHD case is even more dramatic in that it caused her depression and anxiety and at times she expressed the wish to die rather than be the way she was. A Ritalin derivative medication has been a Godsend to her. When she was told that there was medication that could make her better able to concentrate and calm down, she actually cried because she was so relieved. She’s only seven. That’s just so sad to me, but I’m so pleased at what the right treatment has been able to do for her.

Many parents, doctors and schools do over diagnose ADD/ADHD (more so ADHD) because they just want their kids under control. This is not always the case. There are other disorders and diseases that physicians like to over diagnose as well, that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist and a portion of society doesn’t legitimately suffer from them.

Sorry to take up space off topic, Key, but I just had to respond.

Posted by: Momotrips at February 4, 2005 03:00 AM

Hmm... nice site but be more informative!

Posted by: Cari at July 15, 2005 07:02 AM

WOW! I'll add your site to my bookmarks.

Posted by: EroComix at July 18, 2005 08:03 PM
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