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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Consistency in Assessment of ODD



  Here’s a thoughtful question from the November, 2010 issue of the ODD Management Digest. Have you ever wondered the same thing?

(NOTE: To receive monthly complimentary issues of the ODD Management Digest, CLICK HERE.)

I have seen kids I believed to be marginally defiant hauled off to a doctor for a battery of tests. It ended with a psychological report that was more scary than helpful. On the other hand, I’ve seen youngsters who were seriously defiant NEVER receive any assessment or evaluation at all. In your opinion, Dr. Sutton, why is this?  


 This happens all the time. Some youngsters receive an assessment based on the observations, priorities and financial resources of the parents. Frankly, they can take their child to any doctor they choose, and do it any time they choose. My observation over the years is that a parental request for a psychological assessment, especially when Mom and Dad are paying for it, will result in a diagnosis of some sort.

 As for behaviorally-needy youngsters not getting an assessment, there could be a number of reasons.

1. For whatever reason, parents are not communicating with the school on the matter. 

2. Multiple stresses within the home put survival as the priority that trumps everything else. 

3. The parents can’t afford an assessment or don’t have adequate health insurance to help on the bill. (And they might be embarrassed to mention it.) 

4. The school hasn’t adequately expressed the need and made a case for an assessment to the parents. 

5. The school has been implementing interventions (RTI or PBS) in an attempt to resolve behavior and compliance issues. (This is as it should be, with an understanding that, at some point, a school psychological assessment might be helpful.) 

6. School psychologists and other assessment folks are overloaded and must work with students based on highest priority needs. 

7. The line between learning issues and behavioral issues becomes so “fuzzy” that one is addressed at the expense of the other.


This list isn’t even close to being complete; we could spend a day adding to it. Solving the assessment issue involves regular communication between home and school, strong longitudinal documentation, and successful efforts to involve the youngster actively in the problem identification-solving process. (This last one takes time and trust, but it pays big dividends.)

James Sutton, Psychologist


November 6, 2010 - Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents | , , , , , , ,

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