Tic Disorders

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Tics can be motor (sudden, rapid movements of the hands or legs) or tics can be vocal (frequent throat clearing or grunting). Motor tics and vocal tics can occur separately or at the same time. Although tics can be uncontrollable, some can be suppressed for brief periods with effort. Most tics are barely noticeable and do not affect day-to-day functioning, but some tics can affect many areas of a child's life. Most forms of tics do get worse with anxiety, tiredness, or stress.

The Need for Help

Tics occur in up to 24 percent of children. The most common tic disorder is transient tic disorder, which typically occurs during the early school years and may be interpreted as a child being "nervous."

Children with Tourette syndrome can have both body and vocal tics. The majority of these tics resolve or become much less intense or frequent as the child begins the trasition to adulthood; however, some tics may remain with a child into adulthood. Children with Tourette syndrome may also have difficulty with attention, impulsive behaviors, and/or perfectionistic/obsessive thinking.

Tics can occur for other reasons as well. Other disorders that might produce tics include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, learning disorders, and some neurologic disorders. A thorough evaluation is recommended to identify the reason a tic might occur.

That’s Where We Come In

University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital has a long established history of evaluation, education, and treatment of children with tics.

Because tics can produce a wide variety of symptoms and consequences, children are best served by a team of experts working together. Our team of experts design individualized treatment plans for children with tic disorders. Treatment plan may include all or some combination of the following:

  • Medication management
  • Educational consultation and testing
  • Psychological testing
  • Individual therapy
  • Referral for family counseling
  • Consultation with local providers

Our goals are to:

  • Provide effective clinical services for individuals with tics and their families
  • Provide consultation to local educational resources and local providers
  • Provide training to those who serve individuals with tics
  • Conduct effective research on causes and interventions for tics

Clinical Services

We offer the following clinical services:

  • Evaluation based on an individual’s symptoms and concerns
  • Medication management: Assessing and adjusting medications used to treat tics
  • Evaluation of educational needs and learning difficulties
  • Evaluation of tics by psychological testing
  • Education for patients, families and schools relating to tics
  • Psychotherapy (counseling) to address tics
  • Collaboration with schools and primary care providers

We will work with you to make your visit convenient and efficient, and then we can communicate with your local provider to make sure that you are child's needs are addressed.

Complete a Questionnaire Before Your Visit

The diagnosis of a tic disorder is based on the history of tics and related symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Tourette International Collaborative Questionnaire aids the diagnostic process by giving the family a framework to remember symptoms a child might have demonstrated in the past and to think about when these symptoms first began. The questionnaire will be reviewed with a physician at the time of the appointment and will allow the collection of the patient’s history to be more accurate and more efficient.

Education and Training

We provide education and training about tics to parents, teachers, students, social workers, doctors and other health professionals throughout the state. Our goals include early identification, practical interventions for tics, and literature-supported treatment interventions.


We are actively researching causes of tics, as well as new and effective treatments.


Locations and Contact

  • UI Stead Family Children's Hospital
    200 Hawkins Drive
    Iowa City, Iowa 52242
    • 1-888-573-5437 (888 573 KIDS)