DIFFICULT, DEFIANT, DEMANDING AND DIFFERENT

Children and young person who exhibit challenging behaviours both at home and at school is not a new phenomenon however many parents and teachers are struggling with specific individuals who exhibit consistent oppositional behaviour.

There are two terms given to describe persistent difficult, defiant and demanding behaviours: Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ODD and Pathological Demand Avoidance, PDA.

ODD often refers to children who exhibit the following persistent behaviours

  • are angry and irritable
  • often loses temper
  • often argues with adults
  • argue with authority and refuse to comply with requests or rules
  • often deliberately annoy people and blame others for mistakes
  • are often touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • are often resentful
  • are often spiteful and vindictive

Children with ODD can often have impulsive and sometimes hyperactive features so this will often overlap with ADHD.

PDA is characterised by an extreme avoidance of everyday demands. The difference is that it is an anxiety-driven behavioural need to be in control.

The key features of PDA are as follows:

  • refusing
  • giving excuses
  • distracting or changing the topic of conversation
  • negotiating or needing to have the last word
  • bombarding with repetitive questions or noises
  • withdrawing into fantasy world
  • complaining of physical impairment – ‘my legs won’t work’
  • Panic-driven physical outbursts or meltdowns.
  • Resistance to everyday demands made by others as a way of managing acute anxiety
  • Surface sociability, but apparent lack of sense of social identity, pride or shame
  • Liability of mood
  • Impulsivity led by need to control
  • May use social skills to manipulate; these skills are, however, at a functional and logical level rather than at a deeper emotional level.

Children with PDA share many of the social communication, social interaction and sensory difficulties seen within the autism spectrum and as a result PDA and ASD often occur together.

As you can see there is a great deal of overlap between ODD and PDA but also some differences. As a result the best way of supporting children is not to consider how to manage ODD or PDA but to consider the traits outlined above and to address them.

Supporting children with ODD and PDA traits at home

There are no magic solutions or strategies that will transform behaviours overnight. As a result this will not be a case of “inspiration but of perspiration”.

The key issue will be to establish consistent approaches and to work in collaboration with partners at home.

Some initial tips for parents and carers at home would be:

  • Create a structured environment, set house rules, routines and expectations
  • Be consistent, be clear and be concise
  • Pick your battles and avoid power struggles
  • Identify what triggers the child’s behaviour
  • Be positive; give praise and positive reinforcement.
  • Do not provide opportunities to argue.
  • Reduce the anxiety, don’t increase it
  • Avoid raising your voice, be neutral and speak calmly
  • Address your body language and keep your hands down by your sides during heightened situations.
  • Learn to interact with your child during activities and games
  • Celebrate successes and praise good behaviour
  • Don’t take anything personally it’s not about you, it’s about them
  • Understand that anger and frustration are real feelings to those who express it
  • Assign a daily household responsibility
  • Persevere – expect behaviour to get worse before it starts getting better
  • Think more about managing mood and not behaviour

Fin O’Regan 4/4/2020

Please note I shall be preparing a more detailed set of set of strategies for parents and carers on ODD and PDA in the coming weeks, however please see my website www.fintanoregan.com for my current resources for parents and teachers on ADHD and associated behaviour and learning issues.