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OCD in Children: What to Look Out for and How to Help

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is typically associated with adults, but it can also affect children and adolescents. Recognising and understanding the signs of OCD in children is crucial for their education, as well as finding the right methods of treatment. Here at Powertutors, we work closely with many SEND children and young adults and understand the difficulties faced by parents. This is why we’ve put together this short guide on what to look out for and how you can best help your child.

What is OCD

OCD is a chronic mental health condition characterised by obsessive thoughts and feelings that cause significant anxiety and distress. To alleviate these thoughts, children with OCD may engage in specific, repetitive behaviours or mental acts— called compulsions—that they feel driven to perform.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Recognising OCD in children can be challenging as kids naturally have lots of worries and repetitive behaviours. This means that the beginning signs of OCD can often be overlooked and only noticed later on. However, some signs and behaviours can indicate the presence of OCD:

  • Excessive worry about dirt or germs and frequent hand washing or cleaning
  • A need for symmetry and orderliness which leads to arranging items in a specific manner
  • Compulsive checking of things like locks, switches, or homework
  • Repeating certain words, phrases, or prayers
  • Avoidance of situations that might trigger obsessions

Remember, the key to recognising OCD lies in the persistence and intensity of these behaviours. Each child is different and it might not be these exact signs that you notice. If you suspect your child to have OCD it’s always best to seek professional help for an official diagnosis. Especially if you see that these activities are causing distress, taking up a lot of time (more than an hour a day), or interfering with your child’s daily activities or social life.

Help from Schools

An official OCD diagnosis can allow specific accommodations in a school setting. Seating plans can be changed to allow fewer triggers or distractions. Most importantly students with OCD can apply for extra time or separate rooms for exams. This will help reduce anxiety, increase focus, and most importantly give a more accurate representation of their abilities. When they’re in an environment where they can work comfortably.

How you can help

Supporting a child with OCD can sometimes be a delicate balancing act. And it’s important to note that the same methods don’t help everyone. Seeking advice from a professional in the field will often be the best way you can find the best ways to help your child. But here are some strategies to help your child cope with OCD that may help while you wait for an official diagnosis:

Open Communication

Create a supportive environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their obsessions and compulsions without fear of judgment. Reassure them that their feelings are valid and that you’re there to help, not judge.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep can significantly impact mental health. Encourage your child to engage in physical activities they enjoy, maintain a balanced diet, and establish a consistent sleep routine.

Practice Patience

Dealing with OCD is not easy, and your child may have good days and bad days. Be patient, celebrate small victories, and remind your child that improvement takes time and consistency.


Learn about OCD as much as possible. Understanding your child’s condition will help you provide better support and cope with challenges that may arise.

If you find your child is struggling at school due to their OCD, you should consider getting in touch with SEND-qualified tutors. Here at Powertutors, we hand-pick all our tutors to make sure they’re the perfect match for your child. With SEND qualifications they’ll know how best to allow your child to thrive in education, and not let their OCD hold them back.

Seek Professional Help

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), specifically a type called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), is considered the most effective treatment for OCD. In some cases, medication may be recommended.

Whilst OCD in children can sometimes be hard to spot, by paying attention to your child’s behaviour on a day to day basis you may be able to catch the symptoms early. Making a conscious effort on your end to have open communication, patience and encouraging healthy habits can help your child when they’re at home. OCD in children can lead to difficulties in focusing in school, which is why we recommend using our SEND specialist team to go through Educational Health and Care Plans (ECHP’s) to select the best tutors for your child’s needs.

This blog post is intended to provide general awareness and information about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in children. The content provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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