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Advice for my 12 year old son

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Hi, everyone. My son is ASD and suffers with OCD. It mainly started in the build up to starting secondary school and has become significantly worse since lockdown.

He wants to change his bedding every night and wakes me in the early hours to do this, even if it's fresh on that day. He used to do it himself but won't touch it now.

I hear him in the bathroom showering at 12/1am, spending over an hour usually.

I have to watch him wash his hands and reassure him his not touched anything after. Or he'll wash them repeatedly.

He won't get things out of cupboards or the fridge anymore. 

He changes pyjamas sometimes twice a night. Same with clothes straight after dressing. 

He is on the waiting list for camhs (long waiting list) and I've spoken to the duty worker in the meantime but the advice given (getting him to reduce the amount of times gradually of him washing) is not working. Nor is writing down ground rules of how many times to wash hands/bedding etc.

My son doesn't like me speaking to anyone about it and hates talking about it.

I love him and want to help and I am so exhausted. 😞

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Hi Eunicorn, Welcome to the forum:)

I'm very sorry your family's being affected by the disorder at the moment. I was around twelve too when the disorder began to worsen...it's a very difficult age isn't it, made so much harder for your son with the autism along with all that's going on with this virus. I'm glad though that he's on the waiting list for CBT, but I think you're doing the right thing by being proactive with looking at ways to help him until that's available. The advice you've been given so far in terms of working towards cutting down on the compulsions is good...but to do that he really needs to understand how OCD operates.

That's something the treatment through camhs will cover, but I'd recommend getting hold of 'OCD Tools to Help You Fight Back - A Handbook for Young People,' by Cynthia Turner. And, maybe 'Parenting OCD' by Clare Sanders. They're both available from the charity's shop (and I think cheaper than through Amazon). If he understands how the disorder operates and why he feels the way he does, he might feel more confident about, and better able to start making some progress towards recovery. I would be tempted to hold back a little on ground rules though, at least for the time being - maybe instead of rules go with negotiation. Discuss with him if he'd be able to sit with the anxiety from not carrying out a compulsion for a few minutes, while helping him refocus by chatting to him about something he's interested in. From there it's really a case of repeating the exercise until he feels little to no anxiety. It's going to take time to come through this, but for children diagnosed with OCD the prognosis is very good. Yolanda's (a Management Committee member) son, was diagnosed a few years ago and with her help with the CBT is now doing well, and I think in complete recovery.

I think this is probably a daft question considering how much pressure you're under, but how are you?

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Hi Eunicorn80,

Just to add to Hal's great advice, we also have a video from our Northampton Conference last year https://www.ocduk.org/parents/parents-conference-presentations/ocd-and-autism-northampton/ on how to recognise and adapt CBT for those with OCD and Autism. I hope you find it helpful and it gives you hope that although things are difficult right now there are ways to help cope and overcome your son's OCD.


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