Special Needs Children

The Doctors provide helpful tips for raising a child with special needs.

Tourette Syndrome
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 200,000 people in the United States suffer from Tourette syndrome (TS), a neurological disorder that can cause involuntary movements and motor and vocal tics. Boys are three to four times more likely to develop the disorder than girls, and the CDC posits that one in 100 people may suffer from some form of TS, such as a minor facial tic.

Dr. Travis explains that individuals who suffer from Tourette’s have an excess of dopamine in the basal ganglia of the brain. Pediatric neurologist Dr. Andrea Morrison adds that the most common misconception about children with Tourette’s is that their tics are intentional and that they are acting out for attention. She describes tics as an obsessive-compulsive trait that is sometimes alleviated with relaxation techniques.

"Symptoms usually start in childhood," pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. "The average [age] is between 7 and 10 years old. But the good news is that it usually gets better as you get into early adulthood. By your mid-20s, oftentimes, the tics start to go down."

The precise causes of the disorder are unknown, but E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork explains that multiple areas of the brain are involved in causing the tics.

Tyler, 25, was diagnosed with an extreme form of TS when he was 10 years old. His severe, uncontrollable tics were so violent that he would injure himself. To treat his TS, Tyler underwent deep brain stimulation, a procedure in which an electrode is implanted in the thalamus region of the brain. After surgery, electricity is used to stimulate certain parts of the thalamus and control overactive cells that cause tics.

Tyler joins The Doctors to share his update!

"Things are much better," he says. "I want to emphasize that this procedure, it's groundbreaking, it's life-changing, but it's not a cure. It didn't take my condition away completely. It gave me a much higher quality of life, almost a complete flip, but I still have bad days, I still have hard times. My tics still kick up a lot, but this procedure has made it so much more manageable, enjoyable, and I'm able to enjoy being with my family now, and [can be with] my friends and [do] activities. It's great."

Follow The Doctors cameras as they spend a day with Tyler, his wife, Kassie, and their newborn son, Jude, and see how Tyler's life has changed.

AutismAutism is a neural development disorder that usually appears in the first 3 years of life. It is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. The ongoing research on its causes, treatment, as well as any potential links to infant vaccinations is still a hotly debated subject.

More on autism.

Living with Down Syndrome
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when children are born with 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. Symptoms of the disorder can range from mild to severe, and mental and physical development is retarded. Approximately 350,000 people in America have Down syndrome.

Dr. Jim Sears' youngest brother, Stephen, has Down syndrome, and Dr. Sears participates in the Buddy Walk to bring awareness to the disease.

"When a baby is born [with Down syndrome], these parents are lost," he continues. "They have no idea where to go or where to turn to. The number one thing they need to do is get help, get plugged into an association like Down Syndrome Association." 

 “Instead of just saying, ‘Oh your child’s going to have all of these problems, it’s going to be bad, bad, bad,’ [for] most families with kids with Down syndrome, that child is a huge source of joy,” Dr. Sears says.

Actor John C. McGinley, also known as Dr. Perry Cox on the hit TV show Scrubs, joined The Doctors to talk about his 11-year-old son Max, who also has Down syndrome. John says he uses laughter with Max, and it helped a lot especially early on dealing with the communication trouble.

“We didn’t have our terrible twos because of different delays that we had,” he says. “So now we’re having our terrible 11s.”

McGinley is a national spokesman for the National Down Syndrome Society. He talks about the “Buddy Walk” the Society puts on to help people with Down syndrome. The “Buddy Walk” was established in 1995 to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. In the U.S., there are 300 1-mile walks put on annually to raise awareness and funds for the NDSS.

Overcoming Learning Disabilities

The Real Housewives of New Jersey's Caroline Manzo shares her story about raising a child with a learning disability. Her son Albie was diagnosed with a learning disability at the age of 11, but overcame the challenge and graduated from college in hopes of going to law school to become an attorney. But Albie's goals came to a screeching halt when he received a rejection letter from law school. "Because I have a learning disability, [the school said] I should consider another career because someone with a learning disability cannot be a lawyer," Albie says.

Determined to see her son succeed, Caroline encouraged Albie not to take no for an answer and to set his mind to it, and Albie was eventually accepted into law school. Caroline's experience with Albie has moved her to encourage parents to stay active in their child's academics and not let their child's talents be overlooked due to a learning disability.

Caroline makes a mother-to-mother house call to Kari, whose 6-year-old daughter, Bryn, has been diagnosed with several learning disorders. Kari shares her frustrations with struggling to find a solution.