Getting Help for a Child with a Behavior Disorder

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My son is in the 10th grade. He has a behavior disorder and he can’t control himself at times. The school does not understand when he gets agitated and angry. They just suspend him and deprive him of his education.

You say your son has a behavior disorder. Many kids with learning disabilities develop behavior problems. If the school doesn’t teach them the skills they need, they become angry, frustrated, and depressed. Then the school labels them as “behavior disordered” or “emotionally disturbed.”

  • Is he under the care of a mental health professional?

If not, he needs this right away.

By suspending him repeatedly, the school is putting him at high risk for dropping out.

  • Does he have an IEP?

If yes, what services is the school supposed to provide? Are they providing these services?

  • If he doesn’t have an IEP, you should get an evaluation by an independent evaluator.

The evaluator will determine what his needs are and what type of educational program he needs. The evaluator can help advocate for him with the school. A mental health person can also help you learn how to advocate for him.

At this point, you have educators who have little or no training in mental health and behavioral problems dealing with him, mainly by suspending him (which isn’t a punishment for many kids).

  • Is he under the care of a child psychiatrist?

If not, that’s your first step. You also need to get a comprehensive evaluation to find out what is going on with him, why he can’t control himself, and how to help him get himself under control. The child psychiatrist should be able to recommend a good child or neuro-psychologist.

Bottom line: You can’t tackle these problems successfully unless or until you have good diagnostic testing and data.

You’ll find more information and resources on Behavior Problems and Discipline at

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207 Comments on "Getting Help for a Child with a Behavior Disorder"

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my sister is having a hard time with my 5 year old nieces school district ( mississippi) to set up an educational plan. My niece was recently diagnoised with ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiance disorder). The director of special services said the ADHD and ODD were not disabilities. What should my sister do?

Being a special education teacher, I want to inform you that all behaviors have a purpose. Behaviors could be there to avoid something (difficult classwork, bullying, people). Or behaviors could exist because the student does not know the appropriate behavior to do and needs to practice the correct behavior. And obviously there are other issues that can cause behaviors. The school needs to be doing an FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment) on these students with behaviors to determine an hypothesis on what could be causing the behaviors and then find a way to reward the student for appropriate behaviors. I say reward the student because rewards are more effective at changing behaviors then punishments. Much research has proven the effects of positive reinforcement. Hope this helps.

My child has an IEP stating he exposes himself (but this was a 1 time incident) that I was informed about not that its happened more times. My son says he didnt, I beleive him but no adult saw this and only another student made the complain but the records say a group of students. When I was notified no one told me more than one student saw this. How can I remove this from his records? My son has never done such a thing. Any advice please?

This is a vey informational piece, my question is – are places like Colorado Boys Ranch an alternative or last resort? Sometimes, as with my son, the school gets fed up, the teachers get stressed out and there’s really not enough knowledge or training being given to them to handle children with disabilities. My son is ADHD, with alot of work, he’s made it to the 8th grade, but trying to keep him in classes were he doesn’t feel like a reject or like his issues are highlighted to all of his friends, is sometimes most difficult.

My child has a dignoses of ADHD and ODD. He was in an IEP and was later taken out by the school against our wishes and his doctors demand that he still be in one. His problems have started over again and he has had to do ISS. I am currently trying to get him back in an IEP if anyone has suggestions or has had a similar problem please let me know

I am a single parent trying to raise a teenage daughter along with help & support of my parents. She is in a public school w/ an IEP, she also has ADHD, recently diagnosed w/ depression, anxiety and has major behavioral issues that I am trying to control. Main issue though, she doesn’t like the school she attends, she is picked on by teachers & students as well. Would homeschooling or homebound instruction help our situation? — Besides a psychiatrist possibly to prescribe medication — HELP PLEASE!

I have a 10 year old daughter, who is emotionally unstable..she is very smart (she is in an enrichment class), but also attends special ed. The other kids treat her very different, they bully her…almost shun her at times. She has a psychologist, psychiatrist, and also attends IEP sessions. The principal used to be helpful and understanding, but now it seems that he just doesn’t care. I don’t know what else to do. I feel kinda stuck. I had my daughter committed to a behavioral management unit at a local hospital, one week before school started, they only kept her for four days. Didn’t really help. Are there any suggestions, for what I can do for her?

Very informative.

I come to you today with nowhere else to turn hoping for some direction for my son. He is a student in a County School System who is having a very hard time adapting. Since enrolling in the system in 5th grade (currently in the 9th grade for a 3rd time) is has been one problem after another. He is a special education student with diagnosis of Seizures, Mild Intellectual Delay, Behavior Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The problem is he has such a hard time functioning in the school environments that he has been placed in. The biggest problem is how he relates with his peers and adults to be mostly inappropriate. He was originally a student at the High School but was sent to the alternative school for his inability to function appropriately in that environment. Kicking him out of school is not the solution!

I am having the same problem. My son has ADHD and dysgraphia. He is very frustrated at school. They have not helped him at all this year with his writing disability. They treat everything as a behavior issue rather than helping him. They continue to throw him in detention or in-school suspension. He is an auditory learner and needs to be in the classroom. He is failing everything at this point. When they gave him in-school last week I told them I disagreed and did not want him in in-school. They told me I had no say in how my son is disciplined in school. Is this true?

I have a daughter who is six and has ADHD and ODD as well as signs of anxiety and possible learning disorder and or dyslexia. She is defiant and shuts down. At first they considered a conduct disorder. She just got her IEP signed today although I worry because she shuts down and we don’t know exactly what to do when she does this. She has had all the testing that the school says she should. I was so upset to find that the school considered her testing to be fuzzy. They feel because she is so young that she will grow out of this. I don’t see that this will happen with out the right IEP but the problem is not only that the chances of the school following the IEP are slim to none but we don’t know why she does what she does despite the fact I have requested the FBA so many times I can’t count. I wish I knew how to help her get what she needs.

I have a son that is 13 he has been diagnosed with ADHD and recently with a mood disorder. The school system suspended him 30 days last year this year he is currently in isolation they tell me they are working on compliance issues such as tucking in your shirt, sitting still in your seat, not lying your head on the desk. I have had numerous meeting with counselors, teachers, principles. He does have an IEP in place but I do not think it is being followed. Educationally he is not learning anything. The teachers in isolation say they do not get his work from his teachers. I ask them to send work home that he does not complete so that we can finish it at home but this has only been done twice. What can I do? Do I have any grounding to move him to private school and the district be responsible for helping with pay?

I have a 10th grader also who has a behavior disorder. I have been trying to get him an IEP since the beginning of the school year. I contacted the state and now the school district is very mad and have suspended my son at least 30 times and are trying to kick him out of school.

I tried to have a behavior goal placed in his IEP but they will not help. He swears alot and all the trouble that he has gotten is due to his foul mouth. He is now at home being denied an education again. I am really angry at him for his bad mouth. I feel that the suspensions are in retaliation for me making a complaint to the state. Now they will say and do anything to get my son out of the school. His grades were not passing until they put the IEP in place 2 weeks ago. I don’t know what to do.

I used to live in Gwinnett County Georgia. They provided superior services to my boys. My oldest, 12, has Asperger’s Syndrome, my younger one, 10 has ADHD and Emotional Behavioral Disorder. The older one was placed in a special class just for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome. They received social training and support. They allowed them to attend regular classes with a parapro present, if they get stressed, they are trained to go back to their resource class to deal with the issue. My younger one was violent multiple times during the week toward students and staff, so they placed him in a class specifically for children with emotional behavioral disorders. I believe the lead in the class was a psychologist and the aides were counselors. They had goal based incentives for behavior. I found that this school district to be exceptional.

My son does have an IEP, is under the care of mental health professionals, and yet….no one can help him. They just shake their heads and say there is nothing they can do. They say the school can do whatever it has to do with unruly kids, and that my son doesn’t need to continue with appointments if he won’t take meds. The school says my son has to learn to make good choices. They say oneo f his choices is to take meds. Other choices include “behaving himself” and choosing to pay attention, not blow up at others, etc. I realize son has to take personal responsibility, but no one is really helping him learn how to do that. It seems to be an insurmountable task.

I have a son that is 15 in GA and he currently has an IEP. I took him for testing in December and he has been diagnosed with ADHD<, ODD and borderline conduct disorder. Since he is on an IEP is the school required to offer professional counseling as part of his BIP?

I am a single parent trying to raise a teenage son, that has this problem with the school system that would not do anything for me, to help him, just wanted to suspend him 1o days at a time.So for now he is at home trying to get his education through online courses.I really do need some answers , so this school does not treat any other child like this. please help single parent in Georgia.

First, get him to a doctor. You may need a child psychiatrist and a psychologist. In the diagnosis process, you might ask for educational testing. If he needs meds, work that right away as they often take weeks/months to really make a difference. If you are in a private school, contact the public school right away to get the study process going (they may be willing to take the private testing since it isn’t their dime). If a private school, forget civil rights. In @ 39 states out of 50 (like VA), they don’t exist there. Go for an IEP as you already have significant impact. They may steer you to an ED category, but remember things like ADHD and tourettes are OHI (affects your services). Consider multiple categories. This web site is good and also go to Our son has tourettes…been there…got the t-shirt .

I just read your article about evaluation and felt that it was very much against a psychoeducational evaluation. The response here actually sounds like you support school district evaluations and their professionalism. Which is it? Are they advocates or pawns in the game. I am confused by the tenor of the responses in different areas. Should the assessment staff be trusted, I mean they have a specialized certification/licenses or should people just assume that an IEE is best paid for out of pocket and hope that person is reputable. Can I find out who certifies IEE evaluators? Do they have to meet the same standards in a state? Who determines that someone can do a private assessment; or are we just supposed to trust what we are told?