OCD and autism

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We are supporting a few individuals who have OCD and this is impacting on their lives considerably. Current therapies do not seem to work for people on the autistic spectrum. Does anyone have any ideas how we can support these individuals?

Edited on February 23, 2017 - 9:15am

January 15, 2013 - 1:15pm

You may find it helpful to look at the link between strep throat (other infections) and OCD.  I'm not suggesting this is relevant in all cases but it is something you need to be aware of.

January 15, 2013 - 3:34pm



There are a variety of counseling approaches used in the field of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We have information about counseling which may be useful to read:


Counsellors can help with issues such as obsessions, anxiety, anger management and relationship difficulties which are all common issues for many individuals with ASD and can have a lot of impact on their lives.

The Autism Helpline holds a small database of counsellors with experience of working with people with ASD. 


Research Autism has information about counselling and the different approaches used with people with ASD. An overview of this information can be found here:


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is one approach that does have a positive evidence base in terms of effectiveness and again Research Autism has further information about this.


Kind regards

Autism Helpline

January 17, 2013 - 3:38pm

Hello Merial,

I would look at Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) as a possible therapy to help with OCD and ASD. RMT is a programme designed to help to integrate the primary, childhood and postural reflexes. OCD is a common symptom of the Fear Paralyisis Reflex being unitegrated. It is part of the client's need to feel safe in the world at all times.

January 19, 2013 - 12:14am

Has anyone got any ideas about how to deal with very obsessive behaviour in a person with autism and a severe elarning disability who does not have the ability to engage in counselling etc?

January 29, 2013 - 1:26pm

biro wrote:

Has anyone got any ideas about how to deal with very obsessive behaviour in a person with autism and a severe elarning disability who does not have the ability to engage in counselling etc?

Hi Biro,

Obsessions, routines and repetitive behaviours can be common behaviours associated with autism spectrum conditions both with and without an associated learning difficulty and while the interventions outlined in the previous posts may be suitable for some individuals on the spectrum, individuals on the spectrum with an associated learning difficulty may require a very different approach.

It is a very common type of enquiry that the NAS Helpline receives and in deciding how best to support an individual with obsessive behaviours, there are several questions which can be useful to ask in making the decision as to how to move forward.

  • Does the person appear distressed when engaging in the behaviour or does the person give signs that they are trying to resist the behaviour? (e.g. someone who flaps their hands may try to sit on their hands to prevent the behaviour).
  • Can the individual cease the behaviour independently?
  • Is the repetitive behaviour, obsession or routine impacting on the individual’s learning?
  • Is the behaviour limiting the individual’s social opportunities?
  • Is the behaviour causing significant disruption to other people in the individual’s life?

Giving consideration to the above questions can be useful in deciding whether it is in the best interests of the individual to intervene. If the decision to address an obsessive behaviour is taken, identifying possible functions for the behaviour can inform how to begin to support that individual; all behaviours will have function and serve a purpose and many interventions can focus on promoting alternative behaviours which will fulfill that same function but will have less of an impact on that person's well-being.

It may be of help to review the information the NAS has prepared on obsessions, routines and repetitive behaviours which offers further guidance on identifying possible functions for behaviour and also offers suggestions on possible approaches to support that individual. 

It can also be useful to read the above in conjunction with information the NAS has prepared on environmental changes, visual supports and understanding behaviour:

I hope this is of help,

Kind regards,

NAS Helpline Team


February 24, 2017 - 11:39am

On the subject of OCD we also have an interview with Professor Tim Williams in which he discusses OCD and autism, including available treatments and advice for professionals and family members/carers. 

You can watch the interview here

Many thanks,