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Children suffering from tics can be helped by both group and individual therapy

Nonvoluntary stressful movements or sounds are everyday reality for children and adolescents with Tourette Syndrome, but the symptoms can be significantly reduced – both when help comes individually and in a group. This is shown by the first Scandinavian effect study of the treatment of tics which Aarhus University and the Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Risskov, are behind.

Therapy against tics works, and both group and individual treatment are suitable methods to achieve a good effect. This is the conclusion reached by a group of Danish researchers after comparing the effect of different types of tics training based on a new Danish manual. This means that therapists in future can plan a much better course of treatment for those children who experience a very difficult life with tics. One of the researchers behind the study, Judith Becker Nissen, who is associate professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and a consultant at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Risskov under the Central Denmark Region, explains: 

"The study confirms that children and young people with tics can be effectively treated by training in accordance with the strategies that are described in the manual we have developed. This treatment can take place both in groups and individually. This means that many more children and young people can be offered relevant treatment, which is very welcome news for the affected families," says Judith Becker Nissen about the research that has been published in the scientific journal European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

No time to waste

Around fifteen per cent of all children have tics, and up to one per cent of these children have tics that are classified as chronic. When tics continue for more than a year and include both vocal and motoric tics, the disorder is called Tourette's Syndrome. This disorder can be debilitating for a child, says Judith Becker Nissen.

"Some children suffer from tics to such an extent that they must be given pain relief. They can find it difficult to concentrate, for example because they struggle to keep the tics in check so they don’t disturb their classmates, or because their blinking tics make it difficult to focus. In addition, a child who makes strange noises or sudden movements can suffer bullying. We therefore need to help these children get treatment, even though we know that tics often decrease as the brain matures. But the early years are so crucial for a child's development, thus everything that may reduce tics intensity and frequency needs to be done," says Judith Becker Nissen. 

The results from the research study carried out by Aarhus University and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Central Denmark Region provide important information who are naturally interested in whether their tic suffering children are being offered the most effective treatment. According to Judith Becker Nissen, it is particularly important to know of the good effect of group therapy.

Danish manual strengthens treatment

"Some parents are concerned that in group therapy their child will copy the other children's tics and end up with more of them. On the contrary, the children in group therapy are given a selection of exercises that can support them in developing strategies which they and their parents can use if new tics turn up later in their lives," says Judith Becker Nissen.

Together with her colleagues, Judith Becker Nissen has compiled experience and data from the work with children and parents. These experiences are now gathered in the first Danish manual. The manual is available for therapists and the affected families to use. It qualifies previous instructions, among other things, because it is based on Danish data, explains Judith Becker Nissen.

"It has the advantage of both describing individual and group therapy and of combining multiple methods, so the children are given a broad repertoire of methods and strategies. Previously we’ve relied on American and other guidelines, but cultural differences and experience may play a role for treatment outcome, so it is valuable that Danish children and their parents contribute to the manual," says Judith Becker Nissen. 


About the research:

The study: Randomised clinical treatment study.

Partners: Bernhard Weidle, Trondheim.

The study has been supported by the Lundbeck Foundation.

Link to the scientific article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00787-018-1187-z


Clinical Associate Professor, PhD, Consultant Judith Becker Nissen
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine

Central Denmark Region, Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Risskov

Mobile: (+45) 2993 1523