Working with students who have been diagnosed  with ODD can be very challenging. It is really important to interact thoughtfully and respectfully all of your students to enable them to be successful.

Case Study 4: Andrew

With five minutes left until lunchtime, Andrew’s teacher asks Andrew once again to clean up his desk and quietly put all his things away like all the other students are doing. He refuses. His teacher tells him once again in a strict and direct voice. Lucas starts shouting and throwing his things off the table.

Andrew’s teacher does not know what to do anymore, this has become a regular classroom occurance. Not a single day has passed where Lucas did not refuse to do what he had been asked to do. As a result, the other students were getting frustrated and impatient and some were even afraid of and/or angry at Lucas.

In fact, many students disliked Lucas. His behaviour resulted in him feeling lonely and left out by his peers during class and break time. His teacher scheduled a meeting with Lucas’ parents and consulted the learning support teacher for advice. Lucas’ parents stated that he behaved the same at home, being aggressive and actively refusing to obey any of their requests.

The learning support teacher wondered if Lucas could have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

What is oppositional defiant disorder?

ODD describes children who demonstrate rebellious and disobedient behaviour that lasts for over six months. Dr. Nicola Davias states the meaning of ODD clearly; “The goal of a student with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is to gain and maintain control by testing authority to the limit, breaking rules, and provoking and prolonging arguments. In the classroom, this can be distracting for both the teacher and other students.” (Davies, 2016)

Now, we all have experienced impulsive or strong-willed children, this is why it can be very difficult to distinguish between ODD and an emotional child who is having a bad week or private problems at home. To make it easier to identify, here are symptoms that most students with ODD experience.


  • Negative attitude
  • Very argumentative and defiant
  • Disobedient
  • Hostile toward authority figures
  • Temper outbursts
  • Angry and irritable mood
  • Often isolated and lack of friends
  • Often co-exist with other disabilities like ADHD

(Staff M, 2018)

Research has shown that ODD typically develops during preschool years, thus 2-16% of the population are diagnosed with ODD, boys more commonly than girls (Staff W., 2020). Additionally, according to the research done by LANC (Learning Assessment and Neurocare Centre) at least 50% of children suffering from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), additionally suffer from ODD (Ehmke, 2020).

ODD students have difficulties concentrating, paying attention, and following instructions and often perform poorly in school, demonstrate anti-social behaviour, and poor impulse control (Hassan, 2019). If students with ODD are not supported, they can suffer from depression, anxiety, and additional learning and communication disorders. (Mayo clinic, 2018)

As a result of their disruptive character, other classmates will have trouble concentrating, therefore it is vital to have strategies to keep the classroom and students calm and focused. (Davies, 2016). Students with ODD will have different needs than their classmates, it is important to respect and satisfy them to ensure a calm environment. 

What students with ODD might need
  • sitting closer to the teacher to avoid disrupting other students
  • breaks from classroom activities when they feel overwhelmed
  • more time to complete assignments
  • time to consult with a school counsellor or psychologist and practice controlling their angerr
  • an individualized education program (IEP) (Hassan, 2016)
What teachers can do
  • Post classroom rules & review them regularly
  • Have a plan to handle serious behaviour problems
  • Have an organized schedule for the entire school day
  • Help to build friendships
  • Ensure a safe learning environment for disabilities – ODD students are a common target for bullies
  • Be sensitive to self-esteem issues
  • Do not force them to perform In front of class
  • Reflect and grade them privately
  • Praise positive behaviour (not calling out, raising hands, staying seated, being respectful)
  • A regular reminder of the teacher’s understanding and respect for the student.
  • Reward student for good behaviour
  • Opportunities for the student to demonstrate the skills they do well.
  • Praise positive behaviour both individually and for others to hear.
  • Remind yourself that you are human and may need a moment (or more) to calm down and redirect your frustration – and that this is okay. (Staff W., 2020) (Davies, 2016)

The goal of these strategies is to avoid triggering the ODD students and give them opportunities or time to ‘break out’. Ensuring a safe and appreciated learning environment is not only good for students who have ODD, but it will also be beneficial for all other students present in the class.


 All students should have the opportunity to take a break when they feel overwhelmed and not just students with identified special needs.



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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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