Can a baby have Tourette syndrome?

Can my baby have Tourette syndrome?

Many new parents have questions, especially at this critical time of development.

Tourette is hereditary, with symptoms typically emerging around 6 years old. Tics can appear at an earlier age, but without the help of language it can be difficult to find what is causing them.

The term ‘baby’ is being used here for infants between birth and 1-year.

For children between the ages of 1 and 3 years, this post on toddlers and tics is better suited.

I remember being taken to see neurologists as a child. My mum told the neurologist that she accidentally consumed caffeine one day and that I reacted wildly in the womb.

Caffeine was already a trigger for me before birth. I would get diagnosed with Tourette and ADHD at the age of nine.

Those first months of life wouldn’t provide any symptoms despite the reaction. It was only during the toddler and early childhood phase that tics and hyperactivity would become apparent.

This doesn’t necessarily mean babies cannot have Tourette’s, but it would be very difficult to tell.

Babies wriggle, a lot

Babies are always moving their limbs, making sounds… if anything this is a good thing.

Tourette symptoms only really become apparent when these movements no longer seem logical. They seem forced, unwanted and sometimes painful.

Babies cannot talk, vocal tics would be limited to sounds. Distinguishing a vocal tic from a normal sound however is bordering on impossible.

The same goes for any motor tics. Babies often kick their legs out, move their arms and make facial movements. Telling a tic from a standard movement would be very difficult.

Babies are too young to talk of their experiences

We are currently unable to catch tics on scans, the only way to diagnose tics is for a specialist to look at said behaviour and come to a conclusion.

This is most definitely why Tourette is often diagnosed around the age of 6 years.

This Cedars-Sinai article states that:

“The first signs of Tourette syndrome usually occur in children between the ages of 7 and 10, but they can begin as early as 2 years or as late as 18.”

It makes sense that a diagnosis comes when patients are old enough to talk about their feelings and experiences.

Tourette won't harm the baby

Even if it is true that babies can develop Tourette, they aren’t at an age in which tics can be of harm.

Later in life, more severe tics can cause pain or injury, although this is still fairly rare.

Babies don’t have that level of strength and ability. Nor do they have teeth in the first few months, and even after this their bite isn’t powerful enough for a good while.

Diagnosing Tourette in a baby would be extremely difficult for the reasons mentioned above. Tics will develop in some children in the years following, at this stage it is important to seek assistance.

If you have Tourette or another tic disorder yourself, or believe it runs in your family, speaking to your family doctor could give you some valuable information.