How to Prepare Teachers for Your Child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

"My son has Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD. Should I give his teacher (and tutor) some strategies to deal with him in the classroom (starts on Mon.)? If so, what can I tell her?"

Yes, definitely give the teacher some ideas to deal with your son effectively. The school can be a great ally in keeping your youngster with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) safe and successful in the classroom, but you will need to make sure that the teachers have all the knowledge they need to help.

Use the suggestions below to create an information sheet to bring teachers “up to speed.”

23 Things Your ODD Child’s Teachers Should Know -- Information Sheet:
  1. Allow sharp demarcation to occur between academic periods, but hold transition times between periods to a minimum.
  2. Allow my child to redo assignments to improve his score or final grade.
  3. Ask me, his mother, what works at home.
  4. Avoid “infantile” materials to teach basic skills. Materials should be positive and relevant to my child’s life.
  5. Avoid making comments or bringing up situations that may be a source of argument for my child.
  6. Call me with questions or concerns as often as needed.
  7. Choose your battles carefully with my child. Selecting a couple of areas to focus on will work better than fighting over each and every behavioral issue.
  8. Clear, simply stated rules work better for my child than abstract rules and expectations.
  9. Give 2 choices when decisions are needed. State them briefly and clearly.
  10. If there will be any sort of change in my child's classroom or routine, please notify me as far in advance as possible so that we can all work together in preparing her for it.
  11. Make sure academic work is at the appropriate level. When work is too hard, my child becomes frustrated. When it is too easy, he becomes bored. Both reactions lead to problems in the classroom.
  12. Use of individualized instruction, cues, prompting, the breaking down of academic tasks, debriefing, coaching, and providing positive incentives.
  13. Minimize downtime and plan transitions carefully. My ODD child does best when kept busy.
  14. My child has significant challenges, but he also has many strengths and gifts. Please use these to help him have experiences of success.
  15. Pace instruction. When my child has completed a designated amount of a non-preferred activity, reinforce his cooperation by allowing him to do something he prefers or find more enjoyable or less difficult.
  16. Please keep the lines of communication open between our home and the school. My child needs all the adults in her life working together.
  17. Post the daily schedule my child knows what to expect.
  18. Praise my child when he responds positively.
  19. Provide consistency, structure, and clear consequences for my child‘s behavior.
  20. Remember that children with ODD tend to create power struggles. Try to avoid these verbal exchanges. State your position clearly and concisely.
  21. Select material that encourages student interaction. My ODD child needs to learn to talk to his peers and to adults in an appropriate manner. However, all cooperative learning activities must be carefully structured.
  22. Structure activities so my child is not always left out or is the last one picked.
  23. Systematically teach social skills, including anger management, conflict resolution strategies, and how to be assertive in an appropriate manner. Discuss strategies that my child can use to calm himself when he is feeling his anger escalating. Do this when he is calm.

Information sheet tips:
  • In your note, focus on the ways that using strategies appropriate to your youngster's special needs will make things easier for the teacher, rather than insisting on rights and obligations.
  • Keep your tone friendly, helpful and no-nonsense. You are writing as an expert on your child and his diagnosis, not as a pushy, demanding parent.
  • Make a copy of all correspondence for your records. Using a datebook or a contact log, jot down when and what you sent to teachers, and what follow-up you made.
  • Remember, the start of school is a hectic time for the teacher. Even with the best intentions, he/she may not want to spend his/her free time reading tons of material. If you can put together an information sheet (like the one above) that looks manageable, you will stand a much better chance that the teacher will actually follow the instructions listed.

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