My son is 20 months old and has what we feel is a strange behavior: he does a weird rolling of his eyes and shakes his head back and forth, over and over. He does it a few times a day, usually in the evening when sitting on the couch with my husband. When we call his name he is totally aware and will stop this motion for a minute and pay attention, then continues to do it for a couple minutes on and off. We wonder if this is normal or if it is a sign of something. Because it’s rather infrequent, I say we shouldn't worry too much; but when he does it it's rather upsetting and annoying.
Sandi, it’s good that you’re observing your son’s behavior closely. The repetitive movements that you’re describing are also known as “tics.” Approximately 10% of children have tics that last from several weeks to a year and then disappear. Sometimes they develop during times of stress such as starting a new child care, the birth of a sibling, moving homes, or toilet training. If the tics increase in frequency and persist over time, however, they could be a sign of neurological problems.
Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about your son’s symptoms. It would be particularly helpful if you could keep a diary of when and how long they occur, and make a videotape of your son’s behavior so the doctor can observe the movements. The doctor will do a thorough exam and may recommend evaluation by a neurologist. Depending on what their assessment shows, they may recommend treatment to help prevent these movements.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.