When Liam was seven and a half, and after almost a year of being on Ritalin (on and off… I would stop giving it to him during weekends or school holidays), I noticed a tic form.
The tic was in the form of him thrusting his hips if sitting, and jumping if standing. We decided to keep our eye on it and see if it would go away before seeing his Pediatric Neurologist. When he was a bit younger, and before he was on Ritalin, we did notice certain tics begin, but they soon disappeared, so we thought the same thing would happen this time.
In the third week, we saw the tic slowly disappear and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Towards the middle of November 2016 I noticed that he started jerking his shoulders up. It was then that I decided to take him off Ritalin. I had read that Ritalin could cause a tic, and if you saw one appear, you should stop Ritalin immediately and the tic should go away immediately too. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Liam’s situation. The tic continued, and soon the shoulder jerk was coupled with a vocal ‘uh-huh’ sound.
At the time I was visiting our family Doctor for hormone issues I was experiencing and told him about the tic and that I had taken Liam off Ritalin. He asked me about Liam’s EEG results. We had never done an EEG because when I asked his Pediatric Neurologist, she said it was not necessary. Our Doctor was devastated and gave me a referral for Liam to get an EEG done.
I made an appointment, but with Christmas approaching coupled with a waiting list, we could only get the EEG done mid-January 2017. In the meantime, we watched as Liam’s tic became a shoulder jerk, vocal ‘uh-huh’ and a backwards head jerk.
You can view Liam’s motor and vocal tics here in a video I made of him reading. I had to cut some of the video before posting it as he kept on losing his place in the book and the video was really long.
I read everything I could find on tic disorders and Tourette Syndrome and read that unless the tics have been happening for longer than a year, a Tourette Syndrome diagnosis won’t be made.
Knowing that some tics can come and go, I was quite relieved to hear that a diagnosis wouldn’t be made just yet if I took him to a doctor, we had time. I read that tic disorders, or Tourette Syndrome was hereditary. No-one in our family ever displayed any motor or vocal tics.
I had also read that bringing your child’s attention to the tic was not a good idea, so for a while we didn’t bring it up or talk about it when he was within earshot. As far as Liam was aware, we didn’t know it was happening. Then one day, his tics were so bad, I couldn’t help but ask him about it. In all honesty I wanted to know if he was aware of it and I wanted to know if it was distracting for him. So we were sitting on the couch and I asked him ‘Why do you do this?’ and I made the movement and vocal sound that he made. I made sure my tone of voice wasn’t in any way anything other than loving. He shrugged his shoulders and said ‘I don’t know, my brain just makes me do it.’ In that answer, I knew that he was aware of it, and he couldn’t help doing it. I didn’t bring it up with him again.
In doing more research, I read that although Ritalin can cause tics to appear, and stopping the drug would stop the tic, Ritalin can also bring to surface an underlying tic disorder, so once you stop taking the drug, the tic or tics will still remain.
Liam would tic mostly in the afternoons, maybe because he was more tired than he was in the mornings, and we would only notice it if he was sitting still doing something like reading or watching tv. However, by the end of December we saw him tic whilst swimming or playing outside. It had obviously gotten worse and I was very eager to get the EEG done.
I asked his teachers to let me know if they see him tic at school, up until then, they weren’t aware of it at all. I couldn’t believe that, because once he was home after school his tics were extremely obvious.
His EEG was scheduled for 19 January. The day after the EEG he caught a bit of a cold, so I gave him some cold meds. On 21 January we didn’t notice his tics, again on 22 January, no tic. On 23, 24 & 25 January we still didn’t notice the tic at all. We thought we were home free! Then on 26 January it was back again.
When I noticed his tics were back again, I had to think about exactly what we were doing differently for those 5 days and I came up with two possibilities; either it was the combination of cold meds and his immune system being down, or it was what he was eating. I concluded that the chances were pretty strong that it was because of what he was eating.
It had been before payday, so we had no junk food in the house. He wasn’t feeling top notch, so he was asking for only fruits and vegetables (he normally eats loads of fruits and veg, but he would also eat a bit of rubbish during the day). For the life of me, I cannot recall exactly what he ate during the time, but I know that we had cucumber, watermelon, grapes, carrots and tomatoes in our house, so he would have eaten a lot of it all.
We also keep a roll of OceanMilk pH Litmus Paper in our kitchen to test our alkaline levels every now and then, Liam had spotted it on 20 January and tested his pH levels under his tongue for the fun of it, the paper came out blue. It was so noteworthy at the time that I took a photo of our strips and sent it to my mom.
On 25 January, when I got paid, I headed to Makro and bought frozen pizzas, chips, yogurts, and pretty much everything else that was in the more-for-less catalogue at the time. I know for a fact that I would have thrown a frozen pizza into the oven for him for lunch after school that very day.
I started putting the pieces together, it was becoming clear that there was a nutrition connection and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.