How to Handle Compulsive Behavior in Autistic Children

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Developmental disorders like autism can result in compulsive behavior. It’s important that parents address this issue early to help protect their child from the dangers of such behaviors and potential harm they could cause themselves or others.

Compulsive behavior in autism is a problem that can be difficult to handle. This article will give you some tips on how to help your child with this issue. Read more in detail here: compulsive behavior in autism.


The term compulsion conjures up images of a force. Even if the individual does not want to do something, he or she is forced to do so. People with autism are more likely to engage in compulsive behavior, while the reasons for this might vary.

To cope with the stress of daily life, some individuals engage in a variety of compulsive activities. Some persons with autism engage in these behaviors as a result of a co-occurring disease like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Consult your kid’s doctor if your youngster has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and participates in obsessive behavior. You’ll be able to tell if the behaviors are caused by autism, OCD, or something else else if you work together. Then you may devise a strategy to stop the behavior.

What Is Compulsive Behavior in Autism?

Autism compulsive behaviors are activities that individuals engage in or repeat in reaction to events in their surroundings. They’re reactionary actions, but they don’t affect the problem.

Autistic people may feel motivated to:

  • They make a wave with their hands.

  • They snap their fingers together.

  • Jump, rock, or spin.

  • Pull on their tresses.

  • Make a scream, a grunt, or a roar.

  • Poke or push their eyeballs.

  • Fingers or items should be jammed into their ears.

  • Bite the tips of their fingers or the ends of their arms.

  • They slam their heads against the walls.

According to researchers, persons with autism respond to a single stimulus with a range of behaviors. They may, for example, press their fingers into their ears, shout loudly, or slam their heads against the wall if they are in a room crowded with loud sounds. When the youngster is exposed to the same trigger the following day, he or she may react in a different way.

According to experts, some persons with autism may not regard their actions as strange or unique. They could even see them as a beneficial reaction to the environment around them. These obsessive habits are used by people with ASD to cope with:

  • Overwhelmed senses. Loud sounds, bright lights, and strong odors may be very irritating to those with autism. They utilize certain activities to shut out the distracting stimuli.

  • Anxiety. Spinning and moving the body might help to occupy the mind and make a tough situation more bearable.

  • Strong feelings. Screaming or headbanging may assist a person with autism process a growing sensation of delight, whereas flapping hands and blinking eyes can help a person with autism process a rising sense of tension or rage.

  • Boredom. Some obsessive habits are pleasurable in the short term. This kind of behavior may appeal to those with autism.

Repetitive activity, self-soothing behavior, or stimming are all terms used to describe this impulse to move. These behaviors are common among autistic persons. In fact, when physicians try to diagnose autism in children, they search for signs of these desires.

People with autism spectrum disorder, on the other hand, can participate in similar activities for totally unrelated reasons.

Is it possible that you have OCD?

Autism isn’t a barrier to participation. Other physical and mental health issues may afflict people with the disease, and they often do. One of them is obsessive-compulsive disorder.

According to researchers, persons with autism are twice as likely as those without autism to be diagnosed with OCD. It’s conceivable that the two have a genetic link that’s handed down from parent to kid.

Compulsive behaviors are a typical OCD attribute, although they appear in persons with the disorder in a unique way. The desire to act usually follows this pattern:

  • The mind is invaded by an unwanted concept. The individual imagines diseases floating through the air, an automobile about to collide with loved ones, or a disaster waiting to happen. These ideas are powerful, unsettling, and difficult to dismiss.

  • The desire to act intensifies. The individual feels compelled to act in order to eliminate the notion.

  • The answer is a single behavior. Someone concerned about germs would wash their hands, but someone concerned about disaster would double-check that the oven was switched off. There aren’t many options for the individual to pick from. Only one will suffice.

  • The act seems to be rare. Frequently, the individual is aware that the action has little to do with the issue or the thinking. However, it is difficult to ignore the temptation to act.

Researchers have shown that repetitive behaviors associated with autism vary significantly from those associated with OCD. Persons with ASD may find enjoyment in repeating actions, while people with OCD seldom do.

These behaviors may seem identical to the untrained eye, but they are fundamentally distinct and need different therapeutic techniques. Working with a professional is essential.

Begin Here: Consult a physician.

Is your youngster snapping his or her fingers as a result of autism or OCD? Is it possible that medicine may help? Is there another issue? You’re flooded with questions when your youngster engages in a perplexing pastime. Your child’s doctor may be able to help.

Experts explain that anxiety and OCD tests were designed with neurotypical youngsters in mind. Doctors sometimes have to think outside the box to examine the youngsters in their waiting rooms. Experts can assess what drives your kid to behave using a variety of tests, including those that work with nonverbal youngsters.

Depending on your child’s diagnosis, there are several treatment options. If your kid suffers from:

  • Autism-specific treatment seeks to make the behaviors more appealing to the outside world rather than completely removing them.

  • Therapy for autism with OCD seeks to treat the disruptive thoughts so that the kid isn’t pushed to act out in unexpected ways.

As a parent, it’s vital that your kid attends all of his or her treatment visits. To keep your kid on track, you may have homework to do between sessions. If you stick with it, you could notice that public outbursts become less frequent.

Try These At-Home Ideas

You’re a vital part of the solution if your child’s obsessive habits are solely due to autism. Your kid may regard home to be a safe haven, and you may see stimming here more than elsewhere.

Your kid has faith in you to tell it how it is and to make things better. Conversations you make with your kid at home may reverberate throughout his or her life.

These three tips can assist your child:

1. Make time for stim.

Compulsive behaviors are comforting to children with autism, and they see no reason to quit doing them. Pleasure trumps pain if your youngster isn’t inflicting bodily or physical damage. However, the societal ramifications may persist.

Explain to your youngster that stimming is a private, personal action that should be done at home. Schedule stim sessions in your calendar and treat them like you would any other self-care appointment. If your kid can engage in the activity whenever he or she wants, it may be less tempting at other times.

2. Locate a suitable substitute.

Your youngster may look forward to being alone to stim on occasion. If your kid feels an overpowering impulse, he or she must act.

Sadly, your child’s desires might be:

  • Disruptive. Screaming, leaping, and spinning may result in your kid being thrown off an aircraft, sent to the principal’s office, or barred from a friend’s birthday party.

  • Dangerous. Biting arms and hands may cause infection, while putting objects in ears can cause hearing loss.

Look for novel methods to scratch the stim itch. If your youngster has a hankering to clap and tap, give him or her stress balls. To shut out loud sounds, use headphones or recommend tapping on legs rather than tables.

3. Keep an eye on things and make adjustments.

Some autistic compulsive behaviors are unpredictably unpredictable, but many of them are caused by events that you can recognize. You’ll be able to provide better solutions for your youngster if you can recognize triggers.

Keep a behavior journal and jot down any uncommon behaviors you see. Take note of when they first began, when they were more intense, and when they finally ceased. Use this knowledge to identify your child’s compulsions and then alter them.

Do you have a toddler that jumps and spins about while you’re preparing breakfast? Instead of staring at you closely, ask your youngster to set the table. Does your toddler cry in crowded supermarkets? To limit outside noise and make travels simpler, use headphones.

It takes time and effort to recognize and treat all of the triggers. However, by doing so, you are providing your kid with abilities that will last a lifetime. These same tactics may be used by your kid to deal with stressful situations as an adult.

Obtain Professional Assistance

The job you perform at home is crucial, and it may have a significant impact on your child’s life. Therapy, on the other hand, may play an important part, and you’ll need to seek the support of a professional for that.

Your child’s therapist can assist him or her in reducing obsessive habits and redirecting that energy into beneficial activities. The major treatment for autism is applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, which may be used to successfully address obsessive behavior as well as other symptoms of autism.

If your kid isn’t currently taking ABA, know that it has a lot of data backing it up in terms of lowering autistic symptoms. The therapy’s purpose is to help children with autism reduce bad behaviors, increase good behaviors, and foster independence. Smaller objectives, such as strengthening communication skills, increasing self-reliance, and minimizing obsessive habits, are broken down from the bigger goals.

Your kid’s ABA therapist will create the optimal treatment plan for your child based on your feedback and their observations after an initial evaluation. Some ABA sessions may be solely focused on obsessive behavior. While improvements may not occur immediately, you will notice a difference in your kid after many sessions.


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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder that affects people with (February 2020). JAMA.

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Self-Stimulation is discussed by a parent. Newsletter of the National Family Association for Deaf-Blind People.

Why Is My Autistic Teen Chewing on Clothes and Swallowing Objects? (In April of 2016). Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about

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Is New Repetitive Behaviors OCD or ‘Just Autism,’ as a parent wonders? (March of this year). Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about

Treatment options for obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism spectrum disorder. The International OCD Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with

Untangling the Autism-Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Connection (In February of this year). Spectrum.

When an autistic child has a fixation, it can be difficult to break the obsession. The best way to handle this is by educating yourself on the issue and talking with your doctor. Reference: autism obsession with a person.

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