How can I tell if my child has a normal habit versus a tic disorder?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
With habits, as with many child health issues, there's a fine line between normal development and something that requires attention. While habits are normal, a tic might be a symptom of a health problem. So how do you tell them apart? For starters, a habit is more of a behavior or practice, while a tic is a repeated contraction of certain muscles and can't be voluntarily controlled much of the time. Most tics last for less than a year, but they affect up to 20 percent of kids -- boys much more frequently than girls. Sometimes tics come in the form of muscle patterns (excessive blinking, for example), and sometimes they can be verbal (the child making a certain sound over and over). After the age of two or three, echolalia -- when a child repeats sounds made by another person -- can be a sign of autism, Tourette's syndrome, or another disorder. However, it's quite normal for kids to repeat babbles and words earlier on, when they're starting to put words together.
YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

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YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

There’s little doubt that parenting can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences you’ll ever have. But it can be plenty tough, too: Around the clock, you’re working to keep your...

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Brain and Nervous System

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.