What is the best way to deal with a student who has Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Question

My son is 9 and has Aspergers, but also definitely is developing ODD in school with his teacher. I've tried desperately to talk to my son and his teacher, as well as his school Psychologist about what is triggering his behavior. My son told me he doesn't like his teacher's "loud voice" and that it scares him. Her response when I told her and the School Psychologist that was if he doesn't want to hear her loud voice, then he better do his work and stop staring into space.

I told them about your site and have shared your articles with them, but they don't seem to want to try anything but fighting fire with fire, which is leading to more meltdowns and disasters! I have documented everything and written to my son's Psychiatrist who originally diagnosed him, and asked for his advice and help getting my son into a better school system.

There is a special school available in my county for Aspergers and ODD/Behavioral children that worked wonders with him when he was young. Because of budget cuts, they pulled him out and he is now in a "Learning Disabled" class within a main stream school.

I feel as though I'm talking to the wall with this school, who claims they feel they are talking to the wall with my son. I asked that they not take it personally, and perhaps try some of your methods, or send him back to the school he thrived in. They asked me to medicate him; I did, he is still the same, maybe even more stressed.

He is not Oppositional to me (his mom) but he now does not trust any authority figures in school because of his bad experiences and is very vocal about it. When I have the money, I am going to sign up for your online counseling. My doctor should be getting back to me sometime this afternoon as well. In the meantime, I'm so frustrated and worried about the damage that is being done that I think my son is going backwards. Any ideas? Thanks!

Answer

Having your son return to the school for Aspergers and ODD/Behavioral children sounds like the best option. Do whatever you can to get him back into that school. In the meantime, please copy and print the information below and share with your son’s teacher:

Tips for Teaching Students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder—

1. Acknowledge small steps toward improvement by whispering a positive comment to the youngster. Avoid expressing your feelings like, “I am so proud of you!” Instead say something like, “This is A+ work.” Or, you could write a note to give to the child.

2. Ask the school counselor to work with the child individually or in a small group to help the youngster develop anger-management and social-relationship skills.

3. Avoid arguing, lecturing, or threatening a youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder because he/she will most likely view your words as rewarding rather than as punishment.

4. Avoid raising your voice or exhibiting any emotion. Be neutral and calmly say something like: “Since you broke the rule, this is what you will do.” Act like a referee who simply states the consequence and holds the player accountable. Do not allow the youngster to argue. Just restate what happens when a rule is broken.

5. Believe in the youngster`s ability to manage his/her behavior in an appropriate way.

6. Discover what the youngster truly enjoys doing (e.g., participating in a sport or hobby).

7. Focus on only a few problem behaviors at a time. Decide what behavior you will ignore and what you will not accept. Communicate the consequences for those you cannot tolerate.

8. Furnish a place for the youngster to regroup and release negative emotions in a time-out area. You could say to the youngster, “Would time in the rest area be helpful?” or "Your time will begin when you go to the rest area." If regarded appropriate at your school, provide a stress ball to squeeze, a pillow to punch, or old magazines to tear as a way for the child to release some of his/her hostility.

9. Have clear expectations and firm rules and boundaries.

10. Identify skills or attributes that you can reinforce.

11. If deemed helpful, devise a way to show the youngster that he/she is making progress (e.g., use stickers, tokens, or marks on a chart that could be traded for privileges that are reinforcing to the child). Extra computer time, eating lunch with a friend, additional free time, helping a favorite teacher, or doing a classroom task are good rewards as well.

12. Meet privately with the child about specific concerns, but first establish that you will be respectful toward each other. Be calm as you discuss his/her actions. You could say something like, “Tell me what you think the problem is that keeps you from being successful in school.” Listen to the youngster without interrupting. Decide together on a behavior plan that can be copied and shared with the child.

13. Post classroom rules and a daily schedule so that the youngster knows what to expect.

14. Provide recognition when the youngster exhibits appropriate behavior. However, be aware that since many kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder feel compelled to do the opposite of what you want, avoid direct, lavish praise (e.g., following a commendation, the child might retaliate by tearing up his/her work or by hitting someone).

15. Provide some closely supervised cooperative learning activities to assist the child in learning constructive ways to interact with peers.

16. Realize that any sort of change in the classroom routine may be upsetting to a youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

17. Realize that teaching a youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder is difficult, stressful, and exhausting – so take care of yourself.

18. Seek assistance from the school administrator, counselor, psychologist, special education teacher, or other school professional when you feel overwhelmed or when you feel you or the kids in your classroom are unsafe due to the behavior of a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

19. State your directions in simple, straightforward language. Be as clear, immediate and as consistent as possible.

20. Understand that you are not the cause of the defiance, only an outlet for it.

21. When dealing with a youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, it is important to remember that behavior management techniques that work well with other children may be ineffective with him/her. The youngster will frequently misbehave and annoy adults to elicit a reaction.

22. When possible, meet with the parents so that everyone can present a united front. Since these kids are adept at convincing others that someone else caused their behavior, they usually are not included in this meeting. After stating the problem, brainstorm ideas on ways to assist the child in improving his/her behavior. Agree on a behavior plan or contract for the behaviors necessary for the youngster to be successful in school.

23. When possible, concede control to an object such as a clock or the bell. You could say, “Be ready to go when the bell rings,” rather than, “I want you to get ready to go!”

24. When problems arise, questions you could ask the youngster are:

• “How may I help you?”
• “Is what you are doing working for you?”
• “What could you have done differently to avoid the problem?”
• “What would work better?”

25. Work hard to establish trust with the child by being fair and consistent.

Help for Parents with Oppositional Defiant Children and Teens

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