Oppositional Defiant Disorder

A Behavioral Disorder that Impedes Academic and Social Success

Students With ODD may just seem angry. Websterlearning

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is one of two pediatric behavioral disorders defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM IV) that are included in the IDEA definition of "Behavioral Disturbances." While not as serious as a Conduct Disorder, which tends to include aggression and property destruction, ODD as a behavioral disorder, still compromises a student's ability to succeed academically and develop meaningful relationships with peers and teachers.

Students diagnosed with ODD may be found in general education settings if it is determined that the disorder does not prevent him or her from participating fully in the general education classroom. It is also possible that students with ODD in programs for Emotional Disturbances can manage their own behavior to the point where they can successfully be integrated into general education classrooms.

Students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder have several of the following behaviors:

  • Often loses temper
  • Often argues with adults
  • Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult's requests or rules
  • Often deliberately annoys people
  • Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Is often angry and resentful
  • Is often spiteful or vindictive.

A mental health professional would only make this diagnosis if the above symptoms occurred more frequently than in a comparable age or developmental group -- fifteen-year-olds in general argue with adults, or can be touchy or easily annoyed, but a 15-year-old diagnosed with ODD would be significantly more argumentative or touchy in a way that was impacting their functioning in some significant way.

Co-morbidity with Other Behavioral Challenges or Disabilities

The DSM IV TR notes that a significant number of children seen in a clinical setting for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are also diagnosed as having ODD. It also notes that many children with impulse control problems are also frequently diagnosed with ODD.

Best Practices for Students with ODD

All students benefit from classroom settings with structure and clear expectations. It is critical in either a general education setting where students with ODD are included, or in self-contained settings, that structure is clear, explicit and above all consistent. Surprisingly, many teachers who believe that they are evenhanded and clear about expectations often are not. Among the elements most important are:

A Structured Environment Some assumptions about how a classroom should be organized may be inappropriate for students with ODD. Seating arrangements that put children into clusters of 4 may be fine in settings where children are raised with high expectations, but may create too many opportunities for disruptive behavior for students in inner city communities, or among children with ODD. Students with ODD often use seating arrangements as occasions for high drama that are much more about work avoidance than about interpersonal dynamics or angst. Remember, your role is as a teacher and not a therapist. Often rows or pairs are the best way to start out a school year or introduce a new student into the mix.

Supplies, text books and resources can often be problematic if you are not intentional where you put them and how students are permitted or not permitted to access supplies.

Which leads us to . . .

Routines: Rather than rules, routines make expectations clear in a way that is value neutral, especially if you can stay cool and collected. Rather than a rule that says: "Never get out of line," you have a routine that you practice, getting into line, walking without touching or bothering your neighbors, and getting quickly and quietly to your destination in school.

Establishing routines means being pro-active, and planning thoroughly what your classroom expectations will be. Where will students place their backpacks? Will they be able to access them during the day? Only before lunch? How does one get the teacher's attention? Do you raise your hand, place a red cup on top of your desk, or hang a red flag on your desk? Any one of these choices could be a routine that might work in a structured class.

A Reinforcement-Rich Environment: Pay attention to the things your students like or think are important. Do they like music? Why not let them earn time with an individual CD player and CD you have burned of appropriate popular music? Most boys (the majority of children with ODD) love free time on the computer, and most schools block any objectionable sites. Let them earn their time on the computer by completing academic tasks, by earning points for appropriate behavior, or by reaching behavioral or academic goals.

A Calm and Collected Teacher: The function of the behavior associated with Oppositional Defiant Disorder is often to engage people in authority in a tug of war or power play. The most important thing is not to engage in a battle no one will win.