“Kids with ODD Aren’t Eligible for Services”

Published on June 26, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

As a parents’ special education attorney in Connecticut, I hear outrageous statements that parents are told by their school districts on an almost daily basis.  But, sometimes, I am told something that passes the realm of outrageous, and crosses into ridiculous.


Such statements mislead or misrepresent the school’s legal obligations, and always in a way that benefits the school district.

After hearing so many of them, I decided to add a separate category to my blog just for this purpose, where I will post these ridiculous comments and explain why it likely violates IDEA.  Hopefully, if you’ve heard similar things from your district, next time around you will know better!

Today’s Ridiculous Comment

I have a theory:  when I start to hear the same violation of the IDEA out of the mouths of a number of special education administrators within a short period of time, I have to believe they all just attended a conference together or something.  Nothing else would quite adequately explain why, out of nowhere, I will attend a handful of IEP meetings in different school districts over the course of a few months, and hear the same exact responses from each of them on similar factual scenarios.  Not long ago, I heard this one:

“Yes, I see where the psychiatrist diagnosed him with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and has recommended that he needs an IEP, but we don’t identify ODD kids for special education services.”

Huh?  My initial response the first time I heard this was one I have more often than I’d like.  I thought to myself “okay, this administrator is clearly unaware of their legal obligations and their attorney will set them straight when we get to Mediation or threaten Due Process.”  But then I heard it again from another director in another town:  “If all he has is ODD we can’t identify him.”  By the third administrator who said this, I was convinced.  Yup:  recent conference of special education directors was held from which overly broad conclusions were drawn.

Whenever your school district starts a sentence with “we don’t,” your ears should perk up and you should start taking notes.

The cornerstone of the IDEA is that decision making about children with special education needs, from evaluations to programming, should be made on an individual basis.  The unique needs of that child are what is important.  And yet, I hear school staff  make bold proclamations almost every day about what they, as a district, “do” and “don’t do,” without regard to the individual needs of the child in question.

There is nothing in the IDEA which excludes ODD, or any other diagnosed disability, from consideration as triggering eligibility for special education and related services.

Just as having been diagnosed with a particular disability does not guarantee eligibility for special education and related services, neither does having a particular disability exclude a child from services.  If you have been told this, it’s just plain wrong!  The question is not whether “all kids” with a certain diagnosis will require special education services under the IDEA; the question is whether the child in question does.

As a general rule, be wary of general rules when it comes to special education.

There are, of course, some well-settled aspects of the IDEA, about which it is fair to make global statements.  But there aren’t many.  Therefore, if your school district is making generalizations, and telling you things like “we don’t do home services in this district” or “only kids with a speech and language impairment get services from our speech pathologist,” it’s probably a good time to speak with a special education advocate or attorney.

In the meantime, if you’re told something like this, ask to see a copy of the policy which states it.  I can almost guarantee you, it doesn’t exist.

6 Responses to “Kids with ODD Aren’t Eligible for Services”

  1. Craig
    June 26th, 2009 | 9:23 pm

    Bravo! This same thing happened to us years ago. I was told that the district coordinator had determined that my daughter was not eligible for services — without even having evaluated her. Fortunately, I refused to take no for an answer and kept every email that my daughter’s teacher sent me — each one detailing the problems my daughter was having in the classroom. That was powerful evidence that helped us prod the district into following the law.

    These generalizations are Ridiculous! Sadly, many parents give in and give up because they don’t know their rights. That’s a big reason why I love reading your blog and I tell everyone I know about it. Thank you so much!


  2. Catherine
    June 26th, 2009 | 9:53 pm

    Great summary of the “we don’t” umbrella school districts love to use to convince parents they are crazy for asking for services.

    Bottom line: If it effects the child’s future for further education, employment, and independent living – we need services.

  3. sherri
    June 27th, 2009 | 7:36 pm

    We have bumped into this before, as our district has a long history of quick staff turnover.

    We are now being told hat the district will and wont do, “based on education, of course…..and what we are offering other kids in district. No one is getting “special attnetion.”


    Isn’t that why we call it special ed?

    I exclaimed with surprise, that kids with autism,especialy, have special needs, that go beyond, “just education” that CT’s Autism guidlines state they CAN recieve evals, home training, parent training…ect.

    IDEA does not PREVENT our kids from getting thier needs met.

    Well, I am ONLY trying to follow the law. I am stickler for the process, you should know that…
    I will have to look into that.

    If you secure your own eval we don’t have to follow it/adopt it, based on the fact it will not be…educational.

    This is not the first time we have asked for an eval or camp.

    I was quietly wishing I could kick myself for not having EVERY IDEA statute/autism guidline memmorised.

    I was…stunned.

    On it went…..”We are trying to put together a list of solid providers for a strong structured program..”(this has been ongoing too)

    What a better way to begin….by letting an INDEPENDANT outside evaluator look at the child and his program.

    Talk about your self evaluations…what would a school say?

    PPS Dept… I am sorry, but the staff do not know what to do with your high functioning child….I understand you are concerned that there is something more going on …. excuse me….now I need to fire my honest staff because they are admitting they need further help and training….ugh.

  4. Carrie
    July 1st, 2009 | 12:28 pm

    What a great post! We hear this statement all the time around here too, and I think too many parents don’t know that these statements aren’t true! Kids with ODD often have difficulties that impact their ability to access their education and be successful in a classroom, and these issues need to be addressed (at least discussed) by the IEP team!

  5. Diane Willcutts
    May 29th, 2010 | 12:24 pm

    Hi Jen,

    Just had a chance to read some of these. Odd to notice that my hands start sweating, even as I am laughing. (There is a reason that I am a RETIRED advocate.)

    I agree 100% that an ODD diagnosis may also coincide with a need for special education–it is not a “rule out” category

    But even so. . . parents need to consider whether ODD is the actual disability or the consequence of an insufficiently addressed disability of another type. (E.g., if you want to induce ODD in a child, just ignore the ADHD for a few years. . . ) Or maybe the student has a complex mix of needs that must be addressed, or the program just won’t work. (And gosh, who did the differential diagnosis? And how did they conclude that it was ODD vs. anxiety vs. ADHD vs. executive function disorder vs. aspergers vs. a combination of any of the above?) It’s important.

    Just reading the above, I remember one of the worst pitfalls I faced as a parent–spending lots and lots of time trying to educate and persuade school staff about what my child needed. I sent “helpful” articles, wrote letters–repeating the same persuasive info. over and over–even paid for outside evaluations. I had a gazillion PPTs that went nowhere. I kept wondering what I was doing wrong, why the staff wouldn’t listen.

    The answer was: nothing. It’s just that, if a District keeps saying no, repeating the same info. longer and nicer and with more authorative support wasn’t going to help.

    In my case, it turned out that the problem was not the staff. I later learned that some teachers would have LOVED to have additional support for my child added to the IEP, even though they were saying the opposite in the PPTs.

    The problem was that the administrator had said to the staff “you will say x” in the PPT or “you will not say y.”

    Ultimately, I learned to conserve my energy. I didn’t bother repeating myself. If there was something major that needed to be changed, didn’t bother with “informal meetings” that went on and on (and usually in circles) when what I really needed was a PPT. (Because informal meetings do not trigger “Prior Written Notice” or any other procedural safeguard.)

    Eventually, I learned to spend most of the time in PPTs making essential requests to ADD TO THE IEP and confirming whether the District was saying “YES, we are adding this to the IEP today” or “NO, we are refusing your request to add this to the IEP today.” Which is not as easy as it sounds. . .

    Yet another reason I love Jen’s blog. : )

    But let’s get off our computers already and go play outside!

  6. L. Painchaud
    June 15th, 2012 | 11:00 am

    As the factor of ‘executive functioning’ came up as
    one of this students problems, does Maine recognize this as an eligibility category on its own? (ADHD or other disabilities not an issue)