Tourette’s Syndrome, Lexicographers and Google Doodles
“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”
Monday’s Google Doodle honors the birthday of Samuel Johnson (author of A Dictionary of the English Language). He single-handedly compiled the dictionary over a period of seven years and it was published in 1755. It was the preeminent English dictionary for over 150 years. His achievement made him welcome in literary circles and he additionally contributed as an accomplished essayist, journalist, biographer, poet and playwright.
His vast journalistic successes have made him a model of the abilities that can be mastered by people facing physical challenges; however, his particular challenge (Tourette’s syndrome) was not defined or diagnosed during his 75 years lifetime. It was only posthumously, through details in biographies and other descriptions of Johnson’s mannerisms that a diagnosis of Tourette’s was applied.
Today, we recognize Tourette’s syndrome as a common neuropsychiatric disorder that presents in childhood. It is classified along the spectrum with other tic disorders; and patients with Tourette’s characteristically have motor tics and vocal tics. A common eye related tic is eyelid blinking; and vocal tics are unplanned outbursts of grunts or words (sometimes profane). As Samuel Johnson proves, Tourette’s does not affect either life-expectancy or intelligence.
If you have concerns about a child that has excessive eye blinking or any other questionable eye related habits, it is probably not Tourette’s! If excessive blinking is noted, a trip to the pediatrician is the first order of business. If the child is squinting to see, then it is more likely caused by the child compensating for refractive error (the need for glasses). Of course, it is important to know as early as possible if a child needs glasses to prevent the condition of amblyopia or “lazy-eye”. Children who fail vision screenings in school or during a pediatrician’s exam should follow-up with an eye exam.