Best practice tips for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Best practice tips are strategies that have been evaluated in other settings, target a relevant factor (such as a teaching style that lowers student anxiety), or is considered best practice by experts in the field.

Provide a positive environment

Use lots of effective feedback and praise. 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 learning or wellbeing activities.

Build their skillset

Strengthen students’ social skills. Some students with ODD may find it hard to know how to get along with others. Consider explicit teaching 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.

Teach students how to relax. Learning simple ways to relax may help students with ODD manage their emotions. You can watch an example of a breathing and relaxation exercise or access a script for relaxation breathing.

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. 

Have a clear and predictable schedule. Students with ODD are less likely to demonstrate behaviours of concern when they know what to expect.

Consider having a visual schedule on the wall and letting a student know if there are going to be any changes. Remind them to check their timetables regularly.

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.