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Part 1 of 3: Assessing Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Part 1 of 3: Assessing Oppositional Defiant Disorder

(This three-part article is by Dr. James Sutton. It is from his newest book, “What Parents Need to Know About ODD.” This book can be downloaded in e-book format from


 Hardly a week goes by that I don’t receive several dozen emails from parents, grandparents and teachers. They note that their child, grandchild or student is definitely ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). When I ask how the youngster was diagnosed, I’m often told that they, the parent, grandparent or teacher, made the diagnosis themselves based on the observable symptoms and behaviors.

If only it were this easy. I’ve always held to the notion that effective intervention must follow accurate assessment. Otherwise, a condition could be treated as one thing when it is actually something else. In such a case not only will interventions not be effective, appropriate diagnosis and treatment are overlooked. This could cause the real problem to fester and worsen.

There are a number of childhood conditions that present much the same symptoms and behaviors as ODD. These include depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, stress disorders, bipolar conditions, emerging personality disorders, medical conditions and other concerns. An evaluation and diagnosis of ODD must consider all of these and determine that they are not the child’s primary condition or disorder, or that two or more conditions coexist (comorbidity). An accurate evaluation of ODD must also determine the severity and impact of the child’s symptoms and behaviors over time, exactly how the behaviors affect others, and the overall clinical significance of the disorder as it could affect the growth and development of the youngster. In short, an effective evaluation is a complete mapping of an uncharted region … the inner workings of a child.

Components of the Assessment: 

I’m clear on the fact that there is no one way to do an evaluation. (I’m referring to the terms assessment and evaluation and being the same thing.) What is listed here is a model for a process I used for years. It represents what I consider to be the basics. (Because of my writing and speaking schedule, I rarely do evaluations anymore.) I normally do not repeat parts of an assessment that have been done recently, such testing at school. If the reports and records contain the information I need, I use them. This can save time and it’s easier on the child, not to mention the benefit to the parents’ pocketbook.

(to be continued)


July 24, 2006 - Posted by | Difficult Child, Educators, Parents

1 Comment »

  1. What will you advise for treatment of depression? In fact it is very dangerous, when depression passes in the chronic form. WBR LeoP


    Comment by Pharmaceutical | February 3, 2007 | Reply

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