Challenged Hope

Grandmother raising Grandchildren with FASD in Hamilton Ontario Canada


Among other disabilities, my mentally disabled grandchildren struggle with ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). Experiencing their ODD is vastly different from knowing what it actually is and its cause. From a very early age, all four children showed signs of having the disorder through excessive defiance toward me and any other adult in authority. Apparently, ODD is a neurological or behavioural disorder expressed through extreme contention and angry outbursts. I have also learned that this disorder can occur separately, or in conjunction with Attention Deficit Disorder, and/or anxiety and/or depression. While all children (and adults) are capable of defiance, those with ODD do so to the extreme.

To be honest, while raising my grandchildren I find their ODD more difficult to deal with than their FAS (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome) simply because it seems everything I ask or advise them to do is met with a resounding refusal which I’m sure you can imagine, over the years, has been frustrating. Early on, to relieve that frustration, I decided to make a joke out of it by purposely rattling off a series of questions to which I knew they would say  “NO!” – then unexpectedly ask them a question that I knew they would love to say “YES!” to, like so:

  • Please bring your dishes to the sink –NO! Don’t have to!
  • And help me clear the table — NO! Don’t want to!
  • Then you need to start getting ready for bed –NO! It’s too early!
  • But before you do, please put your toys away — NO! I’m still playing!
  • Would you like some ice-cream? — NO! I hate ice cream!… (whimper)… Er, I mean YES!

I loved to see the look on their faces as they got flustered over the final question, and would giggle hilariously without really knowing why. I guess it just relieved my anxiety over their continuous non-cooperation (over the years I have learned many strange ways to cope). I’m unashamed to say I did it often and without remorse, although I’m sure there are many experts who would cringe at such teasing of a child with a disorder that’s not their fault!

Okay, enough frivolity, now let’s look at the serious side of ODD. Here is some information I discovered on the Internet. I think this one is from, although I copied and pasted it and then forgot where I saw it. I hope they don’t mind me using it. Although many websites describe ODD, I chose this one because the features below describes my grandchildren’s characteristics to a tee.

The features of ODD

  • The person may be spiteful and often seeks revenge against those he imagines have wronged him. The condition is often accompanied by swearing or the use of obscene language, refusing to to take responsibility for his own actions, refusing to comply with reasonable requests and rule breaking. He may purposefully be mean to others or become annoying and try to upset others. Behaviour may include temper tantrums filled with hateful comments.


  • The cause of ODD is unknown, but there appear to several contributing factors. Biological factors may play a role. Defects or injuries to the brain may cause abnormal amounts of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are necessary to transmit messages and allow areas of the brain to communicate with each other. An imbalance of these chemicals may cause the messages to be intercepted or rerouted in a way that causes some of the behaviours seen in ODD. Genetics may play a role. Children and teens with ODD generally have a higher rate of other mental disorders in their family. Environment is thought to be a contributing factor. Family dysfunction, inadequate discipline and the presence of mental illness in the household appear to contribute the onset of ODD.


  • There currently are no medical tests that diagnose ODD. A diagnosis relies on the expertise of the evaluate-or who will use his/her clinical experience and judgment to assess behaviour questionnaires filled out by parents, teachers and other adults in the child’s life. The child will be interviewed and observed for the presence of symptoms and behaviours related to ODD. A psychological assessment will be completed to rule out or identify co-existing disorders like ADHD, depression or anxiety.


  • Treatment of ODD requires consistency and patience. Other existing conditions should be treated before or in conjunction with the onset of treatment for ODD. Parent education to improve parenting skills and to learn techniques for dealing with the ODD child is necessary. This training involves learning to use time out techniques, setting realistic limits and sticking to them, providing healthy choices, remaining calm and reacting with reason, following schedules and praising the child for positive behaviors. Individual and/or family counselling may be in order, particularly if the disorder has existed for some time, if the family is under stress or there are other mental illnesses in the family.


  • Early intervention and consistent expectations that are enforced fairly and promptly, along with the expression of unconditional love can bring positive results. Behaviour improves as the child builds confidence in himself and trust in the adults in his life to provide guidance and consequences that are designed with his best interest in mind. Counselling may teach the child to see outside of himself and recognize that some of his perceptions are unnecessarily negative and restrictive. ODD that goes untreated or is ignored may result in conduct disorders well into adult life.


  • Psychotherapy focuses on behavioral control through parental management training (PMT). The training is conducted in a group setting with parents and children present. Parents learn processes that encourage positive behaviour and identify causative factors. The counselling technique encourages development of effective ways to control anger and alter disruptive behaviour.


  • No medication exists to treat ODD as a singular condition. There are medications available that focus on treating related conditions such as depression.

Self Help Techniques

  • Self-help groups can be helpful in providing support to parents of children with ODD. You should seek out a local community group with other parents who are dealing with similar issues. Other parents can always offer suggestions and tips to dealing with the stress of raising an ODD child.

If you would like more information, or need help parenting a child who you believe might have the disorder, your first step would be to contact your family doctor who can then guide you toward the help you require.  

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