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Teachers Experiences

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The difficult management of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Name of Compiler: Michela Ramacciotti
Italian and History; Class Coordinator
Students with learning difficulties
Aspects to consider:
 Period and place in which the experience took place
This case refers to the current school year and more precisely, to events that occurred in the first Trimester; the student is in the first year of the Technical Institute Specializing in Graphics in Grosseto.
 Main actors involved (special focus on the profile of the student)
STUDENT PROFILE: The student was diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disorder in the second year of Middle School; this diagnosis was communicated to the High School during the registration process. The student asserts herself as a negative leader and shows little respect for social norms; she demonstrates oppressive behavior towards her more emotionally fragile classmates; she often uses foul language and verbal provocation with less authoritative teachers.
THE CLASS: There is another female student with a certified Learning Disorder in the class. While the class is not numerous, students appear to have difficulty in the classroom, do not follow rules and regulations and have been unable to form a cohesive group due to poor peer interaction. There are other students with difficulties in the school setting, who do not respect the classroom rules, leading to negative scholastic achievement. The more motivated students suffer the reactions of the other less motivated students and the hostile behavior of the girl.
1. THE STUDENT’S FAMILY: The School Representative for Learning Disorders organized a meeting with the student’s family at the beginning of the school year to discuss the student’s difficulties in individual study and to render the family participants in the choice of compensatory tools used in the classroom setting. There was a lack of awareness of the “pathological” behavior of their daughter on behalf of the family.
2. THE CLASSROOM TEACHERS: In the beginning, the classroom teachers took legitimate disciplinary action regarding the student’s inappropriate behavior; some teachers requested assistance on behalf of the School Directors for difficulties encountered in classroom management.
3. THE HEADMASTER AND THE VICAR: They convened an extraordinary Class Advisory Committee meeting to make decisions regarding disciplinary action for serious episodes involving the student that occurred during lessons.
4. THE REPRESENTATIVE FOR SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS: The representative supported the class coordinator in formulating an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).
 Description of the factual events
From the first days of school, the student made it extremely difficult for teachers to conduct lessons; her conduct was particularly problematic with two classroom teachers. She manifested difficulties in learning, but in such a way that was not exclusively attributable to the specific, certified learning disorder. She demonstrated a poor attention span and a lack of appropriate studying methodologies at home. In the classroom setting, teachers comply with the indications of the law 170/2010 and adopt the first measures of compensation, such as exemption from copying and or reading long texts, allowing the use of a calculator, simplification of the requested content, etc.
 Actions carried out to identify the causes of the students difficulties
The class coordinator requested that teachers always note episodes of inappropriate behavior in the electronic register and that they try to perform an in depth analysis regarding the specific context of such behavior.
Teachers observed that the oppositional behaviors significantly decreased when the student is involved in learning contexts linked to operational aspects of the various subjects.

Actions carried out to solve the situation
The Class Advisory Committee did not limit its action to merely fulfilling the obligations according to the law 170/2010: it requested a revision of the Specific Learning Disorder certification to investigate whether other issues were present, not strictly related to comorbid behavior typical of learning disorders. The diagnosis was in fact extended to ODD, which explains (or at least justifies) the provocative behavior manifested by the student.
The Class Advisory Committee then proceeded to the reformulation of a more articulate and specific INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATIONAL PLAN (IEP), that does not only regard the accompanying measures provided for in situations of learning disorders. The modified individualized program also provided for the possibility of a flexible weekly schedule to reduce the number of hours present in the classroom. Moreover, hours of individual, one on one study with a teacher beside the student were integrated in the plan, both for make-up lessons, as well as for the completion of practical/operational activities required by the school (data logging on the computer, organization of internal files, etc.), pertinent to the acquisition of transversal competencies. Additionally, the entire class participates in psychological support interventions managed by the territorial ASL, in a group format and individually, as authorized by the family.
 Problems encountered
- POOR COLLABORATION ON BEHALF OF THE FAMILY, who accused, in particular, some teachers of having acted in an inappropriate manner towards their daughter. In the course of various meetings with the coordinator, some significant problems emerged related to the dynamics in the parent-child relationship.
- PERCEPTION OF NON-EFFECTIVE TEACHERS, also due to poor training in relation to this type of problem.

 Support received by fellow students, colleagues, school management and parents
The class: a good part of the class takes advantage of this problematic situation to increase their own inappropriate behavior during the lesson.
The colleagues: In the coordinating facilities, there is a teacher, who has a role as collaborator in the Instrumental Function for managing Diversity to assist the coordinator both in the drafting of the Individualized Program and in the delicate task of interacting with the family.
The Special Education Coordinator: This coordinator collaborates in identifying the accompanying measures of the student’s scholastic program and additionally, requests an interview with the medical specialist of the Territorial National Healthcare Service for more precise information regarding the pathology in question.
The Principal: The Principal meets with the parents on many occasions, together with the coordinator and discusses a transfer (within the same Scholastic Institution) to another area of Professional studies that offers a greater concentration on didactic laboratories and a School-Jobs Program more suited to the situation.

 Results achieved
The family decides not to transfer the student to a less demanding course of study in respect to the requirements of the individual disciplines, but they sign the Individualized Educational Plan.
The situation has slightly improved: the student participates in individual activities with the coordinator, aimed at the completion of administrative tasks with the use of a computer (in which she demonstrates good skills), and in recuperating subjects (for the subjects in which the presence in the class is regulated).

Strengths and weaknesses of the experience
Strengths: The individualization of the scholastic program provided for according to national norms, reveals the student’s latent potential in some areas that serves as a lever for learning strategies in other subjects.
Weaknesses: The weaknesses fundamentally regard two aspects:
1) On behalf of the school: There is a lack of professional experts, in support of the family and teachers;
2) On behalf of the family: The parents refused a course in psychological support recommended by the school that would redefine the roles of all components of the family structure.

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20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.