Fine Motor Control and Tic Disorder


It is difficult enough for parents to receive phone calls from teachers that their child is “disruptive” or “disobedient” in class, but some parents may receive more concerning phone calls from their children’s teachers as they are told their child’s behavior may be a result of a neurodevelopmental condition.. In the case of children with tic disorder, this concern of disruptive behavior could be alarming and may point to a larger issue the child may be facing, over which they have no control over. In addition to facing the stereotypes of exhibiting disruptive behavior, many young children who have tic disorder are consequently discriminated against. According to the CDC, children with tic disorder, especially those who experience severe tics, are more likely to be bullied than children without tic disorder (Tourette Syndrome and Bullying).  

Tic disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by repetitive and uncontrollable bodily movements, known as motor or vocal tics. The age of onset for most tic disorders in children spans from ages four to six. However, many of those who are affected by tic disorder see a great decline in their tics as they grow older (Leckman et al., 2014). This decline varies based on the different types of diagnosed tic disorders. Specifically, provisional tic disorder affects young children in their early school years, and the tics have a tendency to substantially diminish in less than one year. However, they may become worse under certain conditions including anxiety and fatigue. Children who experience chronic tics that may last a year or more are often diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, another severe tic disorder (Tic Disorders).  

Although more research on Tourette’s syndrome is needed, a few studies have shed light on the connections between fine motor movements and Tourette’s syndrome. A study examined the differences between fine motor skills in individuals with Tourette’s syndrome and individuals without it, and the results indicated that individuals with Tourette’s syndrome exhibited a lower performance in the categories of hand steadiness and aiming their right hands in comparison to individuals without Tourette’s syndrome. Results also demonstrated that right hand steadiness had a significantly lower performance than left hand steadiness in individuals with Tourette’s syndrome. Conclusions from the study indicated that this reduced control of fine motor skills in individuals with Tourette’s syndrome may be due to alterations in the subcortical and cortical components of one’s brain (Neuner et al., 2012). 

This evidence suggests that individuals with Tourette’s syndrome that engage in activities to improve their fine motor skills through their constant application may be able to limit the occurrence of their motor tics. In fact, older studies have concluded that by focusing concentration on improving these fine motor control skills and movements may be linked to a reduction in motor tics. Children and individuals can improve their fine motor control skills by playing musical instruments that require immense focus in exhibiting fine motor skills by plucking strings and pushing buttons. Other helpful activities include participating in dance or sports (Leckman et al., 2013). In fact, professional soccer players with tic disorder, David Beckham and Tim Howard, are some of the many talented people that have engaged in such activities that improve fine motor skills. 

Although much research regarding the connection between engaging in activities to improve fine motor skills and reduce motor tics is still needed, this finding provides hope for improving future treatments for tic disorder. For instance, current treatments for tic disorder include behavioral therapy to replace a tic with another behavior, like placing one’s hands on one’s knees, to prevent the tic from happening. Although there have not been any treatments created involving improving fine motor skills to reduce the occurrence of tics, increasing research within this area can eventually lead to the creation of such a treatment. Improvement of treatment in reducing tics will substantially help children focus better in classrooms.

 

References

American Academy of Child & Adolescent PsychiatryTic Disorders.(2017). Tic Disorders. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Tic-Disorders-035.aspx 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, May 13th). Tourette’s Syndrome: Help stop bullying. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/tourette/features/tourette-bullying.html 

Cottonbro, P.(2020). [Photo of a toddler playing a ukulele] [Photograph]. Pexels. https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-girl-holding-brown-ukulele-3662750/

Leckman, J.F., Bloch, M.H., Sukhodolsky, D.G., Scahill, L., & King, R.A.(2013) Phenomenology of tics and sensory urges: The self under siege. Tourette Syndrome Oxford: Oxford University Press,3–25. 

Leckman, J.F., King R.A., & Bloch, M.H. (2014) Clinical features of Tourette Syndrome and tic disorders. J Obsessive Compuls Relat Disord, 3(4), 372–379.doi:10.1016/j.jocrd.2014.03.004

Neuner, I., Arrubla, J., Ehlen, C., Janouschek, H., Nordt, C., & Fimm, B.(2012). Fine motor skills in adult Tourette patients are task-dependent. BMC Neurology, 12(120). doi:doi.org/10.1186/1471-2377-12-120

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