Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The ODD Child

Not the "odd" child. The ODD child. Oppositional Defiant Disorder. When I explain to people that Boo has ADHD or that he has been designated as gifted, they have a good idea what I mean. But when I bring in ODD, most folks have no idea.

I jokingly say it means my kid is a jerk. That's harsh and generally untrue, but not too far off on some days.

image from
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following behaviors are associated with ODD: Negativity, Defiance, Disobedience, Hostility directed toward authority figures.

Yes, these are pretty common characteristics of many children at certain stages of development, but in the ODD child they just keep on keeping on.  In order for the diagnosis to be made, these behaviours must persist for more than six months and must be disruptive to the family and/or school environments.

From the Mayo Clinic:
"These behaviors might cause your child to regularly and consistently:
Have temper tantrums
Be argumentative with adults
Refuse to comply with adult requests or rules
Annoy other people deliberately
Blames others for mistakes or misbehavior
Acts touchy and is easily annoyed
Feel anger and resentment
Be spiteful or vindictive
Act aggressively toward peers
Have difficulty maintaining friendships
Have academic problems
Feel a lack of self-esteem 
In addition, your child isn't likely to see his or her behavior as defiant. Instead, your child will probably believe that unreasonable demands are being placed on him or her."
In our home ODD looks something like this:

Me: "Boo, eat some of your steak"
And he eats a piece of broccoli.
Me: "Ok, broccoli is good for you, eat that up."
And he has some potato.

Me: "Boo, it's time to get dressed for school."
Silence and avoidance of eye contact. Continues with whatever he's doing.
Me: "The bell won't wait. We have to get ready."
He hides, and I find him behind the bathroom door.

Every discussion where he doesn't get his way becomes a tantrum and results in him storming off to his room.
Whatever movie we suggest for movie night, 90% of the time he wants something else.
He comes home from school and tells me how no one wanted to play with him at recess.
He can't get two tiny pieces of Lego to stay together, and that means (in his mind) that he's a failure.
He screams, "I hate my life! No one likes me! I'm a loser!"

He's not vindictive, and he doesn't annoy deliberately. But it's like he can't help himself from doing the opposite of what you want or what needs to be done.

ODD is often co-occurring with ADHD, as it is in his case. And his ADHD is Hyperactive-Impulsive. So, the lack of impulse control coupled with the ODD is a bit of a nightmare.

Challenging is an understatement.

But underneath that, he's a great kid, with a big heart, and a whole lot of love to give, both to his family and his friends. He worries about everyone. He's the first to defend another child who's being bullied, and the first to go get help when needed. He helps his classmates when they are having difficulty with their schoolwork. He shares his lunch if someone says "Oh! I like that!" And he's smart. Sometimes it's hard to remember that he's only 8, because he speaks and carries on conversations like he's much older. And that can lead to a lot of false expectations of maturity.

So, raising my amazing little boy is sometimes (often?) a challenge. But it's also a joy. We work with him and his teachers to help him control his impulses and recognise for himself when he's being unreasonable. We try to set up opportunities for success and limit opportunities for failure (in a behavioural sense).  The more social, interactive success he has, the better he will be able to replicate those reactions and situations. The more he'll learn.

And in the meantime, we are learning patience and perseverance and acceptance. Everyone has their own special challenges, and dealing with ours has helped us to accept others. The best thing we can do is support each other, and help everyone to succeed.

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