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Tics

Tics are involuntary muscle movements caused by some form of tension. Appearing as early as three years of age, tics tend to be temporary and more prevalent in children who are intelligent and high achievers. Eye blinking, throat clearing, shoulder shrugging, nose rubbing, and nervous coughing all qualify as tics, and all of them generally diminish in intensity when a child concentrates. Though many tics are minor, they can be awkward and socially disabling.

If Jimmy happens to develop a tic, you should deal with it by not dealing with it; ignoring the behavior is the only way to avoid reinforcing it. Don’t reveal your own anxiety. Take the lassez-faire approach: Pretend you don’t notice the tic. If he has a high-strung personality, encourage noncompetitive activities that will help alleviate his tension.

On average, tics last a few months. If they gain in intensity or last longer, bring the condition to your doctor’s attention. In extremely rare cases, these involuntary movements could point to Tourette’s syndrome, a condition characterized by intense tics and occasional and involuntary verbal outbursts.