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Signs of ODD

All children get angry sometimes. It is normal to have temper tantrums once in a while. Young children can't always control their anger - just think about the "terrible twos!" Teenagers also have outbursts of anger.

Children with ODD seem angrier than other children. They can:

  • Lose their tempers a few times a week or more
  • Argue with parents and other adults often
  • Break rules on purpose
  • Annoy people around them on purpose
  • Blame other people for their mistakes or bad behavior

Problems can start to show up as early as ages 1 to 3. Usually there are signs by age 8. A lot of the problems with ODD are normal for children who are 2 years old. But for children with ODD, the problems don't get better or go away as they get older.

Anger in children with hearing loss
Deaf children can have ODD, just like hearing children. But sometimes, deaf children can seem angrier than normal without having ODD. They can become very frustrated when they can't say what they want to say, or when they can't understand what other people are saying.

Some parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children say their children were very angry all the time, until they learned to communicate better. When the children and families learned sign language, or when the children learned to read lips, most of the anger seemed to go away.

If your child seems angrier than most children, it might be because he's frustrated. Think about whether or not your child has problems communicating. Read our communication section for more information.

Other children who are deaf have good communication with their parents but have taken control of the household. Sometimes this happens because so much attention has been given to satisfying this child that he's learned that tantrums work very well. Some family members feel sorry for the deaf child and want to make him happy. That child doesn't need to communicate with his family - only point, gesture, push or take things that he wants. This gives a child the wrong message.

What happens to children with ODD?
With the right help, some of the signs of ODD can get better. Some children outgrow ODD completely, but that doesn't happen very often. Doctors don't know why this happens to some children, but not to others.

In some children, a bad case of ODD can turn into conduct disorder as the child gets older. Conduct disorder is a serious problem. In some ways, conduct disorder is just a worse version of ODD. It usually starts a few years after ODD starts, if it's going to happen at all.

Signs of conduct disorder are:

  • Hurting other people and animals on purpose
  • Starting fights
  • Skipping school often, starting before age 13
  • Running away from home more than once, without coming back for a long time
  • Stealing
  • Breaking the law
  • Abusing alcohol and drugs

Normally, only the very worst cases of ODD turn into conduct disorder. Milder cases of ODD don't. Most of the time, getting help for the ODD can prevent conduct disorder. You must let your child know that there are rules in your home and in the community. Help him understand that what he does can hurt others, as well as himself.

Next: How you can help your child

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National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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