TIC Disorders

A tic is a condition in which a part of the body moves repeatedly, quickly, suddenly and uncontrollably. Tics can also be defined as recurrent, unvoluntary and non-rhythmic motor movements or vocalizations.

Specialist Behaviour Support Services and Speech Pathology

child with a tic disorder with involuntary movements

Definition of Tics

A tic is a condition in which a part of the body moves repeatedly, quickly, suddenly and uncontrollably. Tics can also be defined as recurrent, unvoluntary and non-rhythmic motor movements or vocalizations.

Tic disorders are neurodevelopmental conditions that cause irregular, unwanted, uncontrollable, and repetitive muscle movements, often on the face or eye, but sometimes can occur in other parts of the body. There is evidence that most children who get tics may outgrow them by the end of puberty (APA, 2013; Ramanujam & Himle, 2016).


Causes of Tics

Research has been done but no firm evidence has been given on the primary causes of tics or tic disorders. It can be noted that sometimes stress and sleep deprivation seem to play a role in both the occurrence and severity of motor tics. In some cases, it is thought that tics might be related to an undetectable chemical imbalance in the brain. Sometimes it appears to be inherited (that is passed down from a family member) (APA, 2013; Ramanujam & Himle, 2016).


Types of Tics

There are three main types of tic disorders. These are: 

  • Provisional or Transient Tic Disorder – this disorder is most prevalent in youth or young people. It is exhibited by the presence of one or more tics for at least one month, but less than one year. In this disorder, although vocal tics may occur, motor tics are the most prevalent. Many children with the disorder experience several occurrences of the transient tics, which may differ in how they manifest over time.
  • Chronic Motor or Vocal Tic Disorder – while transient tics go away in less than a year, chronic tics can last longer, usually over a year. Chronic tic disorders exhibit themselves by the presence of one or more recurrent and long-lasting tics. Signs of this disorder usually begin before the age of 18 years.
  • Tourette's Syndrome or Persistent Tics – this is a type of tic disorder that appears to be a chronic tic. This syndrome is the most severe tic disorder and is usually characterized by the presence of both motor tics and vocal tics.

(APA, 2013; Ramanujam & Himle, 2016)


Symptoms of Tics

Some of the noticeable symptoms of tic disorders are: 

  • Facial grimacing
  • Excessive blinking
  • Twitching
  • Arm, neck or head jerking
  • Shoulder shrugging
  • Sudden, uncontrollable movements of the legs, arms, or body



American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).

Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Ramanujam, K., Himle, M.B. (2016). Tic Disorders and Tourette’s. Encyclopedia of Mental Health.

(APA, 2013; Ramanujam & Himle, 2016)

Behaviour Help

If you are supporting an individual with this diagnosis, please refer to our services and resources. They aim to help children, adolescents and adults achieve better communication, social, emotional, behavioural and learning outcomes. So whether you are wanting guidance on parenting, teaching, supporting or providing therapy, Behaviour Help is at hand.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible causes, symptoms and types but some general information that can be further explored. Based on what you have read if you have any concerns about an individual, please raise them with the individual/s. The caregiver can then raise these concerns with their local doctor who can provide a referral to the relevant professional (e.g. paediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, allied health professional and learning specialists) for diagnosis and treatment if appropriate.

Which resources are right for you?


Based on the Taking CHARGE of Rainbow of Emotions Workbook this app helps children of all ages develop emotional regulation skills. The app guides the child to firstly, identify and express their emotion in appropriate ways. Then the child is guided to use emotional management tool/s from the CHARGE tool kit to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

The acronym CHARGE stands for the different categories of emotional management tools – Chat tools, Helpful thinking tools, Amusement tools, Relaxation tools, Good routine tools and Exercise tools.

Behaviour Help App - Using the evidence-based approach of Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), the Behaviour Help web-based app allows people supporting individuals with emotional and behavioural difficulties to complete a Functional Behaviour Analysis and put together a comprehensive Behaviour Support Plan (BSP). The BSP can then be used by everyone interacting with the individual to manage and prevent challenging behaviours and ultimately improve their lives, and the lives of those who support them.


If you want to learn more about emotional and behavioural difficulties then we have a great range of books you can read on your Kindle or order from Amazon.


Personalised and practical one to one help tailored specifically to your family.

Online Courses

Access these online courses anytime online to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotional regulation skills. Also learn to utilise the positive behaviour support framework to address anxiety, aggression, ADHD, ASD and ODD.

SEL Educational Videos

Minimise or eliminate the occurrence of challenging behaviours by teaching children of all ages appropriate ways of communicating, interacting, managing their emotions and behaviours.

The SEL curriculum uses video modelling to provide direct, explicit and systematic teaching of the various skills by discussing the importance of the skill, modelling the skill so the child learns what the skill looks like? sounds like? feels like? and learn the skill in staged situations that simulate real life scenarios.


Personalised and practical behaviour therapy tailored specifically to your family.


Webinars discuss a range of practical strategies to guide your child learn positive ways of behaving and managing their emotions.


Attend our practical and interactive workshops to learn about a range of diagnoses, practical skills and strategies to help develop the individual’s emotions, behaviours, social and communication skills in your learning environment.

Ask Dolly

Since you’re here, you probably have questions and concerns. I am Dolly Bhargava, am here to help. I am a NDIS registered behaviour support practitioner and speech pathologist.

I have worked in a number of settings for over 21 years so, how can I help?

Please tell me what is worrying you right now and I will do my best to recommend resources and/or services that will be most useful to you in your situation.

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