Middle schooler with oppositional defiant disorder

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Annie Cox, Dec 16, 2017.

  1. Annie Cox

    Annie Cox Rookie

    Jun 27, 2017
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    Dec 16, 2017

    I need some advice on classroom management for a student with ODD. The student is slowly improving, but I feel as though I have no enforceable consequences. He does not care if he gets bad grades. He refuses to listen to me if I attempt a private conversation. If I redirect him during class, he makes disrespectful comments that sometimes make the other students laugh. I've worked with administration, the SPED team, and his parents, but nothing seems to stick. I've learned not to show any anger or emotion in response to his actions/words as his behaviors are clearly focused on getting a reaction. I will offer choices, give positive feedback for good behavior, ask him questions to get to know him and make comments about these things later to show I remembered and care. I also have to choose my battles. Keeping re-directions brief or even just a look/hand gesture seems to work best (although it doesn't always work).
    I can tell he's smart and creative, but he puts little to no effort into his work. At this point, I am okay with this because the biggest issue is that he wanders the room and distracts other students. Again, I have to choose my battles, knowing when to ignore things and let it go. But in the case of disrupting other students, I cannot allow these behaviors. I had worried that if I allowed him to act this way then other students would think it's okay to act this way too. This fear came true as the class as a whole had started becoming unruly and a normally well behaved student had started acting out so I called a parent conference and the student revealed that she thought I was being unfair as she felt that the ODD student got away with stuff that I would get on her for. I explained to her that it may seem unfair, but that I have to deal with different students differently and that I am strict with her because I respect her and expect the best and that one student doing something wrong doesn't make it okay for her to do so.

    So now my main goal is to keep the ODD student in his seat and prevent him from distracting other students. But how can I do that if he simply doesn't listen? And how can I explain to the class that his behavior isn't okay without embarrassing him and making the situation worse?
  3. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

    Aug 10, 2010
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    Dec 16, 2017

    You can't. You cannot do anything because even though students with special needs can be "naughty", a child diagnosed with ODD will always get away with bad behavior and it will only escalate as he gets older. If you start to enforce rules, he will dig in his heels until his behavior is really bad. Then his parents, case manager and possibly administration will blame you for not managing his behavior according to his special needs.

    Other students WILL start to mimic his behavior. And why not? It is more fun to get the class' attention, to do what you want and to get a rise out of the teacher. You don't address it with him, so why would you address bad behavior with them? If you do hold them to standards that you don't hold others to, you'll lose their respect.

    You are in a no-win situation, unfortunately. You can document his disruptive behavior each time it happens and note that he is disrupting the learning of others. That comment is the only thing that saved me when ODD students would consistently act out in my classroom.

    Your only saving grace is that you teach middle school. These children get MUCH worse in high school. They're bigger and they've had a lot more time to learn that misbehavior is either ignored or rewarded. The earlier school years have trained them in the system and they know how to work it for all they can.
    Obadiah likes this.
  4. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

    Jul 27, 2015
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    Dec 18, 2017

    When it appears to the teacher that a student is capable but not trying, this could be a symptom of another learning difference along with ODD. The student will act out to hide his/her perceived inability from the rest of the class and sometimes even hide it from the teacher.

    Concerning his anti-social behavior of not conforming to group procedures, I would recommend not allowing any preferential treatment that he tries to squeeze out of the teacher. He and the other students are part of the group, and as 2ndTimeAround stated, this can only get worse instead of better. On the other hand, I agree with you that you need to pick your battles: your procedures of gestures and refraining from losing your temper are key to this. Perhaps when you apply negative reinforcement (ignoring behavior), later when you respond, your response can include the part that you ignored. Unfortunately, that can also backfire where the student will find a breaking point and only go so far. In other words, how to pick your battles is difficult, because you also need to avoid a constant barrage of intervention to keep him in line which would pretty much disrupt your entire class period. Overall, though, when it comes down to a choice, I would emphasize group adherence to classroom procedures over an individualized response to one student's defiance.

    Concerning ODD, (whew! when I was in college the terminology was all different!), I would be leery of a clinical assumption that his behavior is beyond his control. ODD is a brain response from chemical and electrical activity in the brain: social behaviors are learned/learning responses to social situations, especially at this age. So instead of allowing him to react according to his brain's signals, he needs to learn to manage those signals in a group setting--and more than likely he has, in other social settings outside of a classroom. His upper logical thinking brain needs to be activated, such as you do when call his success to his attention.

    Someone needs to confer with him concerning how he can best use his abilities within the social context of the classroom. I'd recommend a procedure of listening, letting him give input on what he can do to best resolve the social dysfunction, and avoiding lecture (and the typical raising of pitch in the voice where the counselor says, "See. This is what you should be doing..."). It's more like a strategy to win a football game; how can we make it to the goalpost. Sometimes several strategies can be worked on: sometimes it's best to start with just one or two. But after the conference, the teacher/counselor can check with him to be see how it's going. Back to the above analogy, just like any athlete, perfection doesn't occur overnight, he might almost make his goal, and he needs coaching to continue pursuing the goal rather than giving up and giving in again to his brain's proddings.
    Backroads likes this.
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Jun 10, 2007
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    Dec 18, 2017

    Unfortunately, this has been my experience as well, especially if the student does not participate in some sort of intensive therapy program outside of school. It has been my experience that administrators are hesitant or even straight up unwilling to issue consequences or enforce behavior plans for students with severe ODD. The result, in my experience, has been that these behaviors are permitted to go on unchecked, escalating both for the student himself as well as for his peers. Without admin support, it is very difficult to manage these behaviors in the classroom, because they become more and more egregious.

    OP, I would encourage you to continue to seek assistance from the special ed facilitator, admin, and the school counselor.
    Obadiah and Leaborb192 like this.
  6. HSEnglishteach

    HSEnglishteach Rookie

    Mar 26, 2012
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    Dec 20, 2017

    "I have to pick my battles."

    This is your problem. What you need to do with a student like this is NEVER pick your battles. In fact, what you need to do is never "pick your battles" with any student ever. Your rules are your rules, and you must enforce them with the same calm and compassion and consistency with every single student always.

    This student is in control of your classroom, and you are choosing to let him remain in control. I'm not suggesting that your situation is easy. But it is unfair to class and to this student to allow him to get away with being disruptive.

    I wish all teachers would take the "pick your battles" philosophy, cover it with gasoline, and light it on fire.

    Pick your battles is code for lowering expectations.
    futuremathsprof likes this.
  7. Waterborne

    Waterborne Rookie

    Dec 24, 2017
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    Dec 24, 2017

    Be humble and listen. Talk to him after class in private and make sure you know what is going through his mind and try to point out logical flaws. Rephrase what he says until you fully understand his size. Never raise your voice. It's easier said than done, but people with ODD are just people with extremely strong personalities.

    Do give them special treatment, but do not give them too much special treatment. Do not pick your battles unless it is a good idea relationship-wise to pick your battles. Punishing someone that does not learn from punishment is never a good idea. ODD students learn from their own beliefs and only their own beliefs; you have to convince them your beliefs are in their best interest or you will accomplish absolutely nothing.

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