Labeling Defiant Kids

Christine Dufault struggles with son Christopher, who has been disagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ODD CBS

Christopher Dufault looks like your all-American second grader. But to his mother Christine, the 8-year-old is part boy and part monster. Every day a simple task turns into all out war.

"He's broken windows and doors," she told CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski. "And he's so strong, I can't control this 8-year-old."

Christopher's been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition called Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Right alongside ADD and ADHD -- "ODD" is part of the alphabet soup of labels stamped on 1 in 25 schoolchildren. What does it mean? ODD kids simply defy authority.

"Children with ODD exist in every school," said Joseph Volpe, a school psychologist.

Volpe said it's not known whether ODD is biological or environmental. "It's a consistent pattern of negative, hostile, defiant, disobedient behavior and it interferes with functioning," he said.

But others disagree.

"I think it's a fraud," said Ellen Gabor, a retired teacher.

She says what ODD interferes with is teaching.

"It's an attempt to hang a medical term on students who refuse to behave themselves," she said.

She is not Christopher's teacher, but after 32 years in the classroom, Gabor has seen it all -- ADD, ADHD. And when ODD came her way, she says that's where education took a back seat to labels and affected her teaching ability.

"It's a very sad diagnosis, because the other kids could see that the authority of teacher was just withering away."

But Christine Dufault says her son clearly has a disorder. "It's real; it's beyond real."

And Christopher know he has a problem. He calls is "explosive disorder." When asked how did he know he had ODD, he said his "mom says it all the time."

Gabor doesn't buy it. "When children know they're labeled they know exactly, what they are allowed to do. A student might say to me 'I can't do that, I have ODD.'"

Christopher's mother opposes that line of thinking. "They need to deal with it. I mean, just as if it was a kid with a wheelchair or a physical handicap."

Asked if she thought ODD was a real disability, Christine Dufault says "Yes. Absolutely."

And to those who say the behavior is a result of bad parenting, Dufault replied, "It's not! And I say if you lived with him for a day, two days -- you'd know."

Christopher's label is, in many ways, a mystery, one this mother says, she can't solve by herself.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter