After a further demonstration of toy alignment or indefinitely repeating the same behavior, it’s not uncommon for parents to wonder if their child has not one but two disorders: autism and OCD. obsessive compulsive).
OCD is a neurological disorder that causes obsessive thoughts and behaviors and can greatly disrupt a person’s life. There are two main elements to OCD, thoughts or obsessions and compulsions or behaviors.
Obsessions are experienced as thoughts, images or impulses and can be persistent. While compulsions are repetitive behaviors that the patient feels compelled to perform, whether he wants to or not. The performance of repetitive behaviors is usually done to reduce distress or to stop a particular event.
It is common for people with autism spectrum disorder to also display repetitive behaviors and repetitive thoughts, comparable to those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a condition that generally makes sufferers uncomfortable with their symptoms and wish they could get rid of them. On the other hand, autistic children are generally indifferent to their various obsessions or behaviors and may even see them as comforting, increasing the frequency of stressful situations as a calming mechanism.
There are two possible treatments for autism and OCD-like behaviors: behavior therapy and medication. Often these two forms of therapy are prescribed together.
SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are the most common type of medication prescribed to treat OCD behaviors in people with autism. SSRIs are antidepressant drugs that have also been shown to be helpful in reducing OCD behaviors. However, they can cause serious side effects, including an increased risk of suicide. Parents whose children are on SSRIs should closely monitor behavior and report anything out of the ordinary to a healthcare professional.
Behavioral therapy can be another way to reduce repetitive behaviors, but there isn’t one treatment that has been shown to be consistently effective for all cases of autism. This is because no two cases of autism are exactly the same.
Therefore, before a behavior therapy is chosen to treat the symptoms of autism and OCD, an IQ test and / or a functional cognitive level test will usually be administered. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) works well for lower performing children or young children, and cognitive behavioral therapy can work well for more functional and verbal children with autism.
To ensure the best results, it is often recommended to combine behavioral treatments and medications. The drug is usually prescribed to help the child become more open to behavior therapy. Since behavior therapy can be difficult – especially since most children don’t view their OCD behaviors as unwanted – medications can make a difference in encouraging children to be open to suggested changes.
Although both autism and OCD can occur in the same individual, it is much more common for children with autism to simply display behaviors similar to OCD, but which are actually part of their autism symptoms and not a case distinct from compulsive disorder. Nonetheless, it is believed that repetitive thoughts and behaviors based on autism and OCD are quite similar in the early stages of development, but become different over time as they often perform different functions in the two disorders.
Managing autism and OCD at an early age should be a priority to ensure that regular childhood and life experiences such as early education run more smoothly. The less obsessive-compulsive symptoms a child with autism typically presents, the more positive their educational and life experiences will be.
If you think your child has OCD, contact your doctor to discuss diagnostic and treatment options.