How to Help Students With OCD

For children struggling with OCD, functioning in school can be complicated and very difficult. Here are some things you can do to help them, and the class as a whole, focus on learning:

  • Seating arrangement: If the school has noisy hallways, you might not want to have a child with OCD sit by the door. You might have her sit in the front, where she’s less able to hear the noise and can stay more focused on her work. On the other hand, a child who has very observable symptoms, and doesn’t want other kids to see her fidgeting with her hands, rocking or getting up a lot, might be better off closer to the door, toward the back of the room.
  • Extended time for tests and papers: If writing is a problem for a child who needs to find the perfect way to say something, he’s going to need more time to finish those essay questions or papers.
  • Laptops for writing: If writing and rewriting/erasing is really problematic for a child, consider letting her use a laptop for taking notes, and having all assignments be typed instead of handwritten.
  • Private testing rooms: Research is quite clear that kids with OCD do better, are less overwhelmed and are more in control of their thoughts and their reactions if they’re in a quiet place away from the other kids.
  • Skip reading out loud: Kids who feel they need to read perfectly may have to go back and reread sentences or whole paragraphs over and over to make sure they’ve got them right. So reading becomes a very laborious task, and reading in front of the class can become a nightmare. So if we know doing this is a problem for children, we can spare them.
  • Books on tape: If kids get so hung up reading that it takes forever, listening to the books can be a solution.
  • Break homework into chunks: If looking at a whole page of math makes kids feel overwhelmed and anxious — think of the potential for mistakes! — the problems can be broken up over four pages. It helps kids stay focused on doing the problems instead of worrying.