Many autistic people may also have tics or Tourette syndrome. Finding treatment options can help you reduce the severity of tics.

If you have uncontrollable body movements or vocalizations, you may have a tic disorder or experience tics. Tics can be overwhelming because they aren’t within your control.

Tics start in childhood and are often embarrassing to the person experiencing them. They can cause disruptions in school, work, or other activities that are part of a daily routine.

It’s not uncommon for autistic individuals to have tic disorders or Tourette syndrome.

There are different types of tic disorders, and treatment can help you deal with unexpected movements and lessen the severity of the tics.

Do autistic people have tics? Yes, some autistic individuals also have tic disorders.

2016 research indicates that approximately 9-12% of autistic individuals have tics. Tics are sudden, repetitive movements that are involuntary.

If you have tics, you may often feel an urge in the form of a sensation before the tics occur.

Tics and are the most common movement disorders in children. Tics usually have their onset in childhood and can cause many problems for children.

Research from 2021 suggests that tic disorders and Tourette syndrome in children can cause:

  • embarrassment
  • difficulties at school
  • physical discomfort
  • emotional difficulties

A knowledgeable clinician, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or neurologist, can diagnose a child with a tic disorder.

Some examples of tics include:

  • raising shoulders
  • blinking
  • eye-rolling
  • tilting neck
  • widening the mouth
  • grimacing
  • head jerking
  • tapping
  • waving
  • tensing of limbs or abdomen
  • mimicking other’s gestures
  • humming
  • clearing throat
  • yelling out words

For many autistic people, tics can be distressing because they’re hard to control. Many autistic individuals may experience stereotypic behaviors and tics.

Stereotypic behaviors are repetitive behaviors that may help autistic people self-soothe and cope with their environment.

When comparing stereotypic behavior to tics, tics may be more unpleasant. And stereotypic behavior may help you cope with an overwhelming environment.

According to a 2019 review of autistic people’s views of stereotypic behaviors, they can help with self-regulation.

Types of tic disorders

There are three types of tic disorders:

  • Motor tics: involve repetitive body movements
  • Vocal tics: involve voice sounds
  • Tourette syndrome: involves both vocal and motor tics

Motor tics, according to 2020 research, have the following three additional subtypes:

  • Clonic: are abrupt and fast jerking movements
  • Dystonic: are slower and result in brief abnormal postures
  • Tonic: are isometric contractions that involve the tensing of the muscles

Tourette syndrome can also occur with autism. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR), Tourette syndrome includes:

  • having both motor and vocal tics, but they don’t necessarily have to occur together
  • presence of tics for at least one year since the onset
  • occurs before age 18
  • don’t occur as a result of a substance or other medical condition

A 2017 review found that a range of autistic people live with Tourette syndrome, with clinical studies estimating anywhere from 2.9%-20%.

The research authors also note that there has been an overlap between Tourette syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

If you’re looking for treatment for tics, a couple of options have shown effectiveness.

One treatment available is Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT). 2017 research indicates that CBIT is the first-line treatment for tic disorders and has components that include:

  • habit reversal training
  • psychoeducation
  • relaxation training
  • functional intervention

CBIT works to help identify situations and stimuli that may make tics worse and helps you develop strategies to manage tics.

Some medications help treat tics.

Research from 2022 indicates that these types of medications have reduced the severity of tics:

  • Alpha-2-adrenergic agonists: These medications include guanfacine and clonidine
  • Antipsychotics: These medications include haloperidol and pimozide

If you’re considering medications for treating tics, consider talking with your doctor about the benefits and side effects of these medications.

Tics and Tourette syndrome can both occur with autism and can be distressing.

Treatments are available for tic disorders, which involve different types of specialized behavioral interventions or medication. These treatments can help you manage tics and become aware of situations that make tics worse.

For information and support on tics, you can visit: