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Oppositional Defiant Disorder Special Needs Factsheet

Reviewed by: Shirin Hasan, MD

What Teachers Should Know

Even the best-behaved students occasionally can be difficult. But kids and teens who display a continual pattern of tantrums, arguing, and angry or disruptive behavior toward teachers, parents, or other authority figures may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Students with ODD can be so uncooperative and combative that their behavior affects their ability to learn and get along with classmates and teachers. It can lead to poor school performance, anti-social behaviors, and poor impulse control.

ODD is more common in boys than girls. Signs of ODD generally develop during preschool years, and are almost always present before early teens.

Symptoms of ODD can be hard to distinguish from other mental health disorders. Children and teens with ODD may also have:

Behaviors associated with ODD can be mild, moderate, or severe and include:

  • negativity
  • being argumentative and defiant
  • disobedience
  • hostility toward authority figures
  • temper outbursts
  • angry and irritable mood

Students with ODD might need:

  • seating closer to the teacher to avoid disrupting other students
  • breaks from classroom activities when they feel overwhelmed
  • more time to complete assignments
  • to consult with a school counselor or psychologist
  • to visit the school nurse to take medication for coexisting conditions, such as ADHD
  • an individualized education program (IEP) if a learning disability is associated with their ODD

ODD treatment involves therapy, training to help build positive interactions, and sometimes medications to treat related mental health conditions.

What Teachers Can Do

It can be difficult to recognize the differences between a strong-willed or emotional student and one with ODD.

Post classroom rules and review them regularly. Have a plan in place to handle serious behavior problems. Students with ODD often are isolated and lack friends. They may be the targets of bullies or be seen as bullies.

Be sensitive to self-esteem issues. Provide feedback to your student with ODD in private, and avoid asking the student to perform difficult tasks in front of classmates. It can be helpful to praise positive behaviors, such as staying seated, not calling out, taking turns, and being respectful.

Reviewed by: Shirin Hasan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2019