Autism and Tourette Syndrome

When Alan was about 8 years old, he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS). Although he had all 14 signs of autism, he also had the motor and vocal tics associated with TS. Tourette Syndrome is getting lots of press right now because the US soccer team goalie, Tim Howard, has TS.

As with many people who have Tourette Syndrome, symptoms can be managed with the right set of medications, and symptoms sometimes disappear during activities that require intense concentration. This is good "PR" for a little understood syndrome. Like autism, TS is a neurological disorder. Unlike autism, TS is thought to be linked to at least one faulty gene. Autism has yet to be linked to any genetic abnormality, although some believe a link exists.

We did extensive research into TS when Alan was diagnosed. His odd behavior and motor/facial/vocal tics could be attributed to TS. At the time, City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California was the premier research center for TS. (The Tourette Syndrome Clinic there no longer exists). Dr. David E. Cummings wrote a book that we found fascinating - Tourette Syndrome and Human Behavior - and his book indicated there were some links between TS and autism. Some patients with TS have been diagnosed with autism as well, but because the TS symptoms are so pervasive, Tourette becomes the dominate diagnosis. The focus often shifts from TS to autism in adulthood when some of the tics associated with TS begin to lessen, and the autism diagnosis makes more sense as a dominate focus.

Because Alan is also identified as moderately mentally retarded (MMR) this made treatment so difficult. Which diagnosis do we treat? Which "label" do we focus on when trying to manage problem behavior?

There are many parents who struggle with dual diagnoses. The best approach is to take everything one day at a time. Make the best decisions you can.

I have posted a link to both the Tourette Syndrome Association, and David Cummings' book on my "Links that may be helpful" section of my blog.


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