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Can Gifted and Talented Youngsters be ODD?

Here is one of a number of articles from the November edition of the free, monthly publication, the ODD Management Digest. This newsletter is dedicated specifically to those who parent, teacher or counsel youngsters described as oppositional and defiant (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). The question answered this month dealt with defiant behavior in Gifted & Talented children and adolescents. Note: For a free subscription to the ODD Management Digest, CLICK HERE. –James Sutton, EdD, Psychologist (author of the award-winning book, If My Kid’s So Nice, Why’s He Driving ME Crazy?)


Can Gifted & Talented youngsters also be ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)?

Absolutely! My Gifted & Talented (but not ODD) friend in Virginia, Dr. Doug Riley (author of The Defiant Child), tells us that most ODD youngsters feel they are the EQUAL of the adults in their struggles. (Although that’s a fairly arrogant perspective, “arrogant” is another descriptor for many ODD kids.) G&T youngsters certainly can crank it up a few notches and take defiance to a whole new creative level. They don’t feel EQUAL; they feel SUPERIOR in the conflict. (I guess we could call that arrogance on steroids.) They are crafty at planning outcomes THEY are almost guaranteed to win.

Gifted & Talented kids are experts at knowing how to win by LOSING. They might be failing in school, but they can stir up a meeting that last for hours (that’s a LOT of power for a youngster). Threats don’t work, as evidenced by the “I win!” grin on this kid’s face when they push the adult to deliver a consequence that sends blood pressure off the chart and, likely as not, ends up being a mass inconvenience. Rewards don’t fair much better if the biggest “goodie” is frustrating the adults in their lives. And these kids know how to do it. Heck, they could TEACH it!

Fair enough, but what do we DO with these youngsters?

 I would start by addressing the youngster’s behavior in two phases:

1. I’d attempt to determine what the payoff for the inappropriate behavior would be, they find a way NOT to pay it.

2. I’d look and see if there are other addressable issues at the core of the defiance.

Since it’s not my intent to write a book chapter here, let me just hit a couple of highlights on these two phases. First of all, if I felt the youngster’s intent was to delight in frustrating me, I’d back out of the conflict. Within the classroom setting, for instance, I’d put this child on an assignment in a small group with just two other (compliant) classmates. The kid can’t hide, because three minus one leaves a hole anyone would notice. Also, the defiance toward the teacher has stopped (at least temporarily), and youngsters tend to be less defiant toward peers, especially if  the groups are changed regularly. It would also be more difficult for this kid to trash a reward  or benefit that was earned by the group.    

And, yes, there can issues the core of the defiance. These issues are often not addressed because the BEHAVIOR is the focus of treatment. This can often make the child even angrier and more difficult, and the brigher the child, the more angry and difficult the behavior.

Depression is not unusual. In fact, some research back in 1993 indicated that approximately 50% of youngsters diagnosed as Oppositional Defiant Disorder could also have been diagnosed as depressed. If the depression goes untreated, behavior usually worsens. If it is treated, there can be a breakthrough in behavior. This is why a good psychological assessment is so important.



November 1, 2008 - Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents | , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Interesting, thanks for sharing.


    Comment by tobeme | November 13, 2008 | Reply

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