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Tics, or habit spasms

These repetitive movements of the face or body, often begin with some useful purpose. For example, a too-long fringe can necessitate either blinking the eyes or brushing the hair aside to see properly. It is when this blinking or brushing continues after the fringe has been cut that a 'tic' is present.

The number and type of movements described as 'tics' are innumerable. Blinking, sniffing, clearing the throat and other habits connected with the face are most common. But all parents can probably enumerate other irritating habits in their children.

These habits often start as a response to some worrying situation, but continue long after the problem has been solved. Nervous children especially will rub their faces or wring their hands when talking to a stranger. And often these habits are seen in adults during periods of stress.

Treatment for tics

However difficult it is, do try not to continually draw attention to your child's repetitive movements. Instead, try to distract his attention by giving him something to do which needs concentration. This is particularly helpful if the tic affects some movements of his hands. A task involving use of his hands will stop the repetitive movement, at least for a time.

Obvious remedies, like having an irritating piece of hair cut should be done. And worries that the child may have about situations at school or at home should be sorted out. Often, when the general level of concern is removed, the tic will also disappear.

Nail-biting can be a particularly irritating form of tic, and it is seen in very many children in this age group. Any unusually worrying situation, shyness or even boredom can set it off.

As with all habit spasms, nail-biting can be difficult to stop. However, girls can be encouraged to stop by paying particular attention to the appearance of their hands generally. The use of a pale-coloured nail varnish can act as an encouragement once the nails are long enough. But again, any particular worrying problem may be a factor in the continuation of nail-biting.

Any bitter substance painted on the nails plays no useful part in the treatment. Certainly, at this age, it will be quickly washed off !

Tics of all kinds can be an especially irritating facet of bringing up children. Although not health threatening, they may be a sign of unhappiness in the child. Also, some parents are concerned lest their child should have a physic- al disorder that is causing the repetitive movements. This is rarely so, however, and there would be many other signs and symptoms associated if a particular disease was present. If at all worried, consult your doctor, for reassurance.

     
     

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