iStock 515594796Has your child got essential tremor?

Have you noticed trembling in your child’s hand? Do they have difficulty with writing, holding cups, fastening laces, and with fiddly things? With the new school year approaching, and with some children just starting school, it may be worth investigating whether your child has essential tremor.

Essential tremor is often thought to be a condition that affect older adults. However, it can start in early childhood affecting approximately 5% of children. Mainly involving the hands and there is often a family history of tremor however this is not always the case.

Essential tremor is a chronic condition characterised by involuntary, rhythmic tremor of a body part, most typically the hands and arms.

Essential tremor is considered a slowly progressive disorder and, in some people, may eventually involve the head, voice, tongue, legs, and trunk. However, in many people, the disorder may be relatively non-progressive and may be mild throughout life.

Children are often more resilient to coping with tremor than adults.  However, when children become school age they may have a greater awareness of their tremor as the demands of classroom activities are upon them. They may have difficulties with certain tasks, such as writing, drawing, dressing and undressing and playing a musical instrument. Children with an essential tremor are likely to tire easily too. This may cause comments from peers, anxiety and embarrassment. Other children are open and curious and will ask quite naturally ‘why do you tremble?’.  

When in the classroom one moment they may be able to join in an activity, and the next they may be ‘off’ and unable to participate. This can be frustrating for them so it is important to explain their symptoms to those old enough to understand.

There are many ways in which children can be helped at school by their teachers. This could mean giving them extra time to do work, take regular breaks and provide additional equipment such as pens with easy to hold grips, or computers.

Remember that many of your child’s anxieties can be relieved if you provide them with good information about tremor and talk to them openly about their worries and concerns. If you have noticed these symptoms, you should be open with your child, supportive and find help. For them to be diagnosed with a tremor it is best to see your GP in the first instances who can refer you to someone who understands tremor, or a neurologist.

If you are a parent, teacher or child, and want to talk to us for support and advice, contact our Children Liaison Officer, Kitty Reilly on kitty@tremor.org.uk.

Read more about essential tremor in children.