Getting Help for a Child with a Behavior Disorder

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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

  1. I have a 12 yr old son and he was diagnosed with ADHD and mild retardation. We tried medication but that didn’t work at all. He was in public School in special Ed but they couldn’t handle him plus they have too many kids to try to handle with just 1 teacher. My mom is homeschooling him but he is getting out of control and not minding her and doing stuff he shouldn’t be doing. I need help to find a school or something that can help him without costing me a arm and leg. Please help me anyone with any information!

    • I realize this post is like 5 years old but I’m having the very same problem I was wondering if you ever got any help for him

      • I realize I may be a little late with this but one thing about this I would like to say is to always remember, you are the parents, and you are your child’s biggest advocate. If you haven’t already done so make sure you go over the parent rights packet and understand it If there is anything that is not clear or anything that is not right or anything you are not comfortable with you do not have to sign off on it, you can call and set up an appointment with a supervisor. And, always remember, everyone has a supervisor.The schools job is to provide your child an education in the least restrictive environment possible

  2. Our daughter has shut down completely and is now in an autism class (she was moved right before Christmas break). She was restrained/secluded at her previous school. She has not been the same kid since. She has acted up at this school so much so they are wanting to move her to the Alternative school for the remainder of the year. Transition is difficult for her. I told them I refuse to allow them to move her again. What can I do???

  3. I would give the advice to speak with your local Protection & Advocacy office when you have questions about your childs IEP. In regards to what is appropriate for you as a parent to ask for. What the school needs to do. As, in our case above their were no goals written in the IEP which the state says automatically makes an IEP invalid. Also, the Special ed teacher and her teacher were the only ones present at the meeting. I was informed that somebody with building administrator title must be signed in on the IEP , as that can also be considered invalid.
    We live in a small town and I could tell at the Football game today that other school staff, I could tell by the looks I got that others new all about what happened. I was direct with the teachers and told them I contacted Prot&Adv. and they had to change some things on the IEP.

  4. We have a 1o year old girl, adoptee wit ADHD.Her IEP has accomodations for shortened assignments, quiet place. This year though at her IEP her new Special ed teacher and teacher made everything sound super. The Special ed teacher said she would have “no goals” as there was really nothing other than redirection. 1 week after the IEP I get a Demerit paper being sent home as my daughter earned 8 checks and was 1/2 way to losing her quarterly incentive- that all kids participate in. Talking and missed assignments.The school was not seeing that her end of the day assignment sheet was filled out and checked by teacher to be sure all unfinished work come home.They refused to fill out the sheet,went to state prot&advocacy &told them they had to. They redid the IEP with reluctant.I said they had to have goals by law.Now I get the looks by staf:(

  5. My son has been suspended 18 days this school year. Today he was suspended for calling an other Student a B***h. He has an IEP I am not sure but I think I need help. What should I do? We live in Michigan. Thank you for your help.

  6. Carol – If you son is still on an IEP request a behavioral assessment be done by the school (in writing) and request that you are able to sign the school’s formal documents to get this testing done. Your letter will not be the document that starts the clock ticking since they will have 60 days to do the test. After this test is done reconvene the team and go over the results and make sure you get this listed in the IEP where there is a box for behavior plan. In the meantime request that your son or the other child be separated in the class. It is not good for your child to be in a room sitting all by himself with nothing to do all day. They tried to do this kind of thing with my children until I got the behavior plan put in place.

  7. My 12 year old son is attending a public school and is being mainstream in regular classrooms. A bully is teasing him when a teacher is not around and when my son responds, my son is the one in trouble and is being sent to the office, sitting at a small desk doing nothing all day. The teachers don’t believe my son when he tries to tell them that the bully is teasing him. The math teacher kicked my son out of math class because my son stuck his tongue out at the bully after the bully kept teasing my son during lunch. My son has transitional issues and is not doing so well now. Can anybody help him and me?

    • My son and I are going through this very something with my 11 year old grandson. The teachers and classmates. blame everything on him. I have been praying for things to get better. The teachers don’t. have the patients for these children. I need help too.

      • Hello! My 7 yr old grandson that I have custody of, was just dropped from his school! He’s in first grade! He has chronic issues with his ears-including hearing loss. He’s been seeing a counselor. But in order to have him accessed for ‘high functioning autism ‘ we had to end counseling while we go through this process. I live in a VERY small rural town. Honestly, I’m at a loss for words! I’ve never heard of dropping a 7 yr old due to more than 9 EXCUSED absences! If anyone can help me, give advice or direct me to someone who can assist me with this matter. It would greatly be appreciated! Thank you! Rebecca

    • Ik this post is very old, but how it get handled with your son, and my daughter that’s six deals with this, and they do nothing.

  8. Jennifer – THis is a tough situation. Have you considered requesting a behavior assessment to be done by the school? We did for our son and they discovered “triggers” that would cause some of the behaviors and once known what was some of the causes and solutions then everyone knew how to deal with my son. The IEP got together after the assessment was done and incorporated it into the IEP. My son improved immensely. This way you do not have to go to the school which you should not have to. On the medical side we took our son to a pediatric neurologist and he determined that my son needed a low dose of ritalin and later concerta. We are not fans of medicine but it made a world of difference. My son is now 25 and because he was on medicine in his younger years he was able to do well.

  9. my son has adhd and was struggling in school, mainly because he wasn’t doing his work. he would also have blow ups at school. I started attending school with him and his grades shot up to straight A’s and his blow ups diminished. The other day he had a blow up for the first time since I started going and I couldn’t calm him down. I received no help at all from the principal. I signed him out to get him to calm down and when he did I brought him back after lunch. she refused to let me go back to the class, she pulled him out in front of all the other students and suspended him. she also told me I could no longer be in the classroom and not only that could not speak with the teacher at all unless it was through email. Is there something i could do. she treated us like we were terrorists. I did nothing.

  10. Angela – Have you ruled out an medical issues? My son has ADHD and acted out also. We asked our family and well as other parents to give us a name of a good pediatric neurologist to see our son and he was able to help us a lot with behaviors in the school. Yes my son was put on Ritalin on the lowest dose possible to help him be able to sit still and not be impulsive or act out. This was a god send for us. My son would tell me before he took medicine how mean everyone was to him and after he took medicine how nice everyone was to him. He was able to get through the day and the medicine would wear off at night and he did not take it on the weekends. He is now 25 and is doing well. His self esteem was kept intact due to the positive nature the medicine had on how he was treated.

  11. My cousin has a son who was diagnosed with adhd add and a few other mental problems. He acts out when the gets mad and acts out when he isn’t allowed to go where ever his mother goes. She has tried everything. He acts out at school and has to go to this institution in her home town. They say there is nothing they can do for him. This little boy need immediate help because the last few times he has acted out he has said he wanted to die or kill him self. He has a older sister that is taking a toll on as long with their mother. She is unable to work because the school is always calling her to come pick up her son. It seems no one is wanting to help her with this problem. She was told he would have to hurt himself or someone else before he really could be put some where he could get help he needs. What can I do?

  12. I have 7 year old son that has a behavior problem and has been in the hospital 4xs now. They have changed his meds several times and it doesn’t seem to be working. Id like to put him in some kind of school that can help him. I cant seem to get him to mind, listen, go to school. He’s mean to his sisters he hits himself. He is an AB honor roll student. Just alot of behavior problems. Please if u can give me any information on schools or military school please let me know i have to do something.

  13. Does the school have the right to baker act a 5 year old student because he got scared when moved from a class room to another and then acts out. Is there a Florida law against this procedure?

  14. hey i have a 9 year old that is acting out all the time.. mainly at home not so much at school… i am going to try some of this that i read but the help doesn’t help.

    He doesn’t want to do, he doesn’t listen and nothing scares him… he doesn’t care about anything he tells me and his dad all the time that we don’t love him to send him to foster care, and that would be a better life for him… he won’t listen that it isn’t always better for him… but i just don’t know what to do with him anymore if someone could maybe help i would really appreate that…

  15. I am a behavior disorder specialist in a forward thinking school district in Texas. As we have many young people with behavior disorders and other OHI impairments we are continually striving to better serve our kids. All of our kids are mainstreamed in the classroom and are usually placed in an inclusion class. I am what we call a Focus Re-director and have 2 aids which help with counseling and re-teaching appropriate behaviors. The job is not an easy one but the kids are learning and remain in the regular education classroom as much as possible. For more information about our model you can purchase a book called “PASS Inclusion for students with Behavior Disorders” by James R. Poole and Hope Caperton-Brown

  16. Cristina,
    It sounds like your daughter needs behavioral intervention. Physiotherapy is physical therapy for a physical therapy. Did you try psychotherapy or play therapy? NJ has a department of child behavioral health services administered by the dept of children & families (NOT DYFS). I’m surprised the school district didn’t suggest it. Technically the program is for age 5-21, but they do accept 4 yo in certain circumstances. Intake #1-877-652-7624 Fact sheet:

    Are you near one of the state designated pediatric hospitals? Most have pediatric behavioral programs. Meridian Health in Monmouth/Ocean has programs at Jersey Shore for children with behavioral issues as young as 3. Talk to your pediatrician, clearly there is some issue if she is intentionally injuring other kids

  17. My 4 yr old daughter was suspended from pre-k school today because she cut her friends face with a scissor. Her behavior is inappropriate and hurt other kids, pushing and hitting. We went to a physiotherapy and she improved, but today was the worse. Is there other doctor, clinic, behavioral school here in New Jersey that I can help my daughter? She cannot go back to school, as per the principal and the superintendent of public school. The school does not have any type of program to help the students on behavioral problem.

  18. My son is in the 10th grade, he is constantly getting suspended for calling names or throwing things when someone upsets him or when he is blamed for things he has not done. I have taken him to a private child psychiatrist and they don’t find anything wrong with him. He has not been evaluated by the school. I have called the guidance counselor, and the principal, but they cancel my meetings. This past school year my son has been suspended 3 times. I am frustrated, don’t know what else to do. Staying at home alone is definately not punishment. I don’t have any behavioral problems at home, he is very athletic and popular, but even that get’s him in trouble.
    Thanks, Margie

  19. This is what is wrong with America? Why is it the school’s responsibility to teach anything but academics. It is the parents responsibility to make sure the students conduct themselves appropriately. Educators are held hostage.! Parents and students know that the school has no authority over them. They can disrupt the other 28 kids in the classroom. What about those students. What about their rights? In a democratic society majority rules. I bet the other kids would vote that the disruptive children not be allowed to keep them from learning. It is the teacher’s responsibilty to teach academics. Academics should be the first priorty. We should not subject our kids to this type of nonsense. It has become totally insane.

    • Robert.. those are all very good points. I must assess from your point of view 1. Either you are a teacher or have someone close to you that teaches and/or 2. You do not have a child with an impairment of any kind. My 8 yr old had this stroke at birth and it has affected many physical, behavioral and some mental abilities. He is ambulatory, with Cerebral Palsy and Left Sided Hemparesis. I would be more than happy to have my son attend a private school to be pad by the school district (Considering the property taxes I have paid the last 23 years) so that the other 20 something (typical) children would not have their days disrupted. But first I would need your help in changing the system! So that we can make Academics our 1st priority!

    • Old post, but I’ll respond to the sentiment anyway. As long as school is a mandated policy, is not a community effort and does not allow parents in to “assist”, yes – it is the public schools’ responsibility to provide a Free and Appropriate Education. When the other 28 students are in real life, there are going to be people working with them with differences, so in order to prepare them for the real world it would make sense that schools be realistic as well?

    • Robert I understand you are frustrated but put yourself in a parent who has a child with disability shoes. When they find out that their child has a disability it hurts. It hurts them to know that their child is not like everyone else. It hurts them to know that they may be separated from other kids. Thats why so many parent want their kids to be mainstreamed to give them some sense of normalcy. The other students can learn compassion and acceptance of others. In the real world they will be working alongside people who have disabilities and are different from them. Its best to start when they are young.

  20. Does a school system have the right to change a child’s diagnosis label, ie, from MMR to OHI. They refused to provide services to my child because he tested high on a test for perceptual reasoning, but his IQ is still in the Mild Mental Retardation range. But the school said they wouldn’t continue providing services for my child if I didn’t agree to let them change the diagnosis. Is this legal? I have all the documentation on this. And the doctor said that it doesn’t make any difference about his perceptual reasoning being high. He is still Mild Mentally Retarded, with Central Nervous System dysfunction, ADHD, social emotional disorder with behavior concerns. I can’t get the school to even look at documentation about his conditions. He has a twin brother with the same diagnosis, but gets more services.

  21. About 3yrs. ago I placed a call to a attorney’s office asking could I sue the School District because they kept suspending my daughter. She is now 16 and running away from home and I wanted to place her back in school. It had gotten so bad at her last school that they placed her in a school for children with all kinds of problems from selling drugs in school to attempting to murder teachers. That’s where my daughter found her new friends because the kids came from the whole city and all its surrounding counties. Now I can’t keep her home because she has places to go that I know nothing about. I’ve fought the court system to keep her from having a criminal background record because of simply getting frustrated and angry and acting out with her words. I’ve cried over and over again. How do I educate her now?

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. 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?

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. 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!

  28. 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?

  29. 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!

  30. 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?

  31. 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.

  32. 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?

    • If your son was suspended for 30 days last year and he had an IEP, you have grounds to file a complaint with your Department of Public Instruction. Unless your son attends a private school, then I am afraid you are out of luck because private schools do not have to follow IDEA rules. Also if your son is being put into isolation you should be notified each time. I would ask for an IEP meeting with the special education supervisor or director of special education. With 30 days of suspension, unless they sent home plans of provision, for every day beginning with the 11th day of suspension, they will need to talk about compensatory education services with you. Getting a district to pay for a private school placement is tough. Start by asking for a meeting with the special education director.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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?

  37. 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.

  38. 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 .

  39. 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?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Please help us defeat spam. Thank you. *