Mike was calm most of the time. Sometimes he would pace back and forth. At times he would grab my hand and take me to a door he wanted open, or to the refrigerator. He liked to sit. Occasionally he would stand in front of the sofa, and fall back. If you were behind him, you’d have to be very quick. If the couch got too crowded, he would just get up and walk away, or pace.
Now and then, Mike would get agitated. He had this habit of biting his hand really hard while slapping his head. The staff at his group home had goals for him to minimize this behavior. One of the docs however, thought that he was Tourettic, and that the combination of hitting and biting was just a “complex motor tick”.
I think the staff was successful in reducing the number of weekly incidents. They were very good at documenting the occurrences. I don’t know if they just tried to identify and eliminate the cause of this behavior, or got him to replace it with a less destructive behavior.
My understanding of this aspect of autism is that these repetitive behaviours are used to meet sensory needs. Often (like mike & my boy) they can have very high thresholds to pain – the brain doesn’t recognise the signals quickly or easily. Because the behaviour is meeting a need its virtually impossible for them to stop doing whatever it is. But it is possible to replace the behaviour with another which meets those needs but in another more appropriate way. If mike does have Tourette’s then that would be a different thing altogether 🙂 ultimately it’s all about the brain though isn’t it?
I think you are right. In fact, the staff where Michael used to live made some pretty good progress in reducing the number of these incidents. Tourette seems to be about inability to inhibit urges, so there is nothing behavioural about it. I don’t think that a Tourettic tic can be channeled into a different behaviour. Are there any Tourette specialists out there who care to comment? Thanks.