Evidence-based strategies for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Evidence-based strategies are those that have been evaluated by researchers within school settings, and found to be effective.

Build a student's skill set

Strengthen students’ social skills

Some students with ODD may find it hard to know how to get along with others. Consider explicit teaching  with social skills, such as how to share, apologise and agree with others, and how to have a conversation (for example, listening, letting the other person talk, waiting their turn to talk). Opportunities to practise these skills in a range of settings may help. You can read about other general social skills strategies here.

Help students build positive relationships

Positive relationships between students with ODD and teachers or SLSOs as well as their peers and other school staff, may help them with cooperation, motivation, and learning. Connecting with students and managing frustrations with past behaviours of concern can help build a positive relationship.

Talk with students about feelings

A “feelings thermometer” on the wall can help students communicate how they are feeling without using words. Feelings card games help students learn what emotions look like. Access our emotion cards page.

Help students to manage their emotions

If a student gets angry or has an emotional outburst, they can take steps to calm down. Encourage them to recognise a feeling, pause, take a breath, and tell themselves to calm down or use other strategies like counting to 10. Help them to think about why they may have become emotional once they have calmed down. An explanation of how the brain works (frontal lobe shut down), and the need for a break when a person is not regulated, may also assist in helping students to manage their emotions.

Teach students how to relax

Learning simple ways to relax may help students with ODD manage their emotions. Access our relaxation breathing script or watch an example of a breathing and relaxation exercise.

Encourage students to problem solve

Helping students learn to problem solve can help them persist with school work instead of getting frustrated. For example, help students identify a problem, think of possible solutions, choose the best solution, and think about if the solution worked. When students are learning how to problem solve, giving them appropriate options to choose from may be helpful. See our problem solving guide.

Provide a positive environment

Use lots of effective feedback

Providing students often with verbal specific praise for positive behaviours can build confidence and reduce behaviours of concern This might include feedback for staying focused, interacting well with others, and listening to teachers or SLSOs. Feedback can be given both individually and for others to hear.

Provide positive and nurturing role models

A warm and supportive role model can help students learn how to have good interpersonal relationships. Look for ways to model to students how to get along with others.

Use rewarding learning or wellbeing activities

Encouragement can also support positive behaviours. Students may be more motivated if they can choose their favourite rewarding book or activities.

Be proactive

Classroom management

Explaining the classroom expectations at the start of a year or term can be helpful. Clear and simple are best (for example, “Raise your hand before you speak”, “Keep your hands to yourself”). 

Teaching students why a rule is important, including how breaking a rule impacts others, may lead to more positive behaviour. Plan lessons which teach positive behaviour and provide students with opportunity to practise.

Collaborate with parents or carers

Build strong home-school bonds

Where possible, consider involving parents or carers through regular positive phone calls, teacher-home interviews, and homework which needs signing.

Use a home-school note system

Send positive notes home in a students’ diary for positive behaviour at school, so that their family can encourage them at home. These notes could describe the positive behaviour for the parent or carer to understand.