Any syndrome is a grouping of symptoms that recur together, to become associated with a single diagnosis. In the case of Tourette’s, vocal tics as well as motor ones have become expected. Eye movements and facial grimacing, shoulder shrugs or jerks and trunk rotations are also common; all usually brief. Although possible at any age, the tics tend to first show up in elementary school-age children. The motor version can become severe enough to misalign orthopaedic structures over time because such a regular and repetitive a yanking on bone causes it to shift.

Some people experience an increase in severity of tics while others may see them all fade away into adulthood. Regardless, the tics interfere with social interactions and school and job performance. They often are so uncomfortable they actually hurt. Self-image costs are high due to the involuntary characteristic, and vocal tics may take the form of profanity that the person would not otherwise engage in. Even if they don’t actually hurt, tics are embarrassing. Compounding that, Tourette Syndrome may lead to or be associated with attention and learning issues and obsessive-compulsive types of behaviors. The HANDLE perspective looks at all of these behaviors not as something to judge a person by, but as communication from the body about what it needs.

Given the HANDLE understanding of interdependent systems as the foundation of all human function, it’s no surprise that tics often first appear as school challenges confront sensory and motor systems unprepared for them. We have found that clients diagnosed with TS often have visual system challenges including heightened sensitivity to light, especially flickering light (such as fluorescents), and irregular binocular functions; and an unusual sense of rhythm (usually syncopated). The underlying causes are seen to be, primarily, irregularity in the development of reflex inhibition and differentiation of movement/response.

Looking at each client as an individual, through careful observation and analysis we can discern systems of the body and brain that need strengthening or organising or protection. We then design an individualized program of gentle movement-based activities, along with other indicated recommendations and support, to enhance weak systems, reduce symptomatic behaviours, and create function from dysfunction.