Monday, April 07, 2014


A well-meaning social worker once said to me "You can't call it a paddy these days; racist overtones." 

I'd been describing how a looked after child had lost their cool. 

The child had been diagnosed with ODD. Stands for "Oppositional Defiance Disorder". Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but I reckon the experts who came up with "ODD" sailed a bit close to the wind with what they thought was a mildy funny-clever name for something that isn't funny and they weren't clever.

"Ho-ho, let's make up a name for it which spells 'Odd' that'll give the conference something to giggle about..."

It doesn't bother me if a child gets het up, they're just letting off a bit of steam.

How can a looked-after child not have some anger? All sorts of people get cross with the world.

Look at the cabinet minister who blew up at the Downing St gates when they wouldn't let him cycle through. We only ever see foreign parliaments on the news when they are flailing arms at each other and screaming "Walk away Prime Minister he's not worth it!" Millionaire footballers are always seeing red mist. 

Tantrums. Wobblies. Episodes. Screaming ab dabs. Flare ups. Hissy fits. Handbags.

The eskimos (sorry, Inuits) are supposed to have 28 words for snow because they're up to their knees in it. Well here in the developed world we're clearly up to our necks in dissatisfaction because we've got hundreds of words and phrases for being over the top.

Winston Churchill had his very own one, he used to refer to it as his black dog. Although to be precise it was more of a depression than an anger.

He used to get the blues. Down in the dumps. Hacked off. Low. Fed up. Bummed out. On a downer.

When I was a child people merely got depressed. Now the thing is better understood, and often gets proper diagnosis. For example, they might be suffering from bipolar disorder, a miserable medically diagnosed condition which I believe used to be called manic depression, where the unfortunate person swings from an often unpleasant high to an always unpleasant low. Steven Fry lives with it.

But they haven't got round to a medically approved word for when someone blows their top. 

Consequently we foster parents are left with nothing but street slang terms which I find undervalue the child's experience, and consequently minimise the professionalism with which we deal with it.

Perhaps it would be useful to be able to describe the kind of anger which is out of control as a kind of seizure, as the person has been somehow taken over. I have honestly never witnessed such a condition in a looked-after child. In my experience they are always sitting in the driving seat, watching themselves, exercising shrewd judgement about the level of their behaviour.

I'm not saying a child could never cross the line and become a danger, I'm saying that in my case - and I've seen a few - there's always a self-awareness. 

And we don't have a word to distinguish this type of anger, which ought to be recognised by the professionals.

But not the boys and girls who came up with "ODD", please, or else:

"Apparent Anger And Acrimony Alongside Aware And Regulated Guided Hyperactivity"



  1. I really feel these tems are just banded about as a "get out clause" we recently has a child who was just a child who was very used to getting her own way instead of working with the child to sort out that the adults make the decisions they took her to the GP to get diagnosed wth ODD and then "blamed" all her behaviour on the fact she had ODD!

  2. I really agree with your point here, in that many professionals are pre-occupied with diagnosis of what's "wrong" with the child. I went to the doctor myself once, with a rash. I said "I've got a rash" He had a look, touched a few of the little pimples, then swung round to his desk and started writing. After a moment he looked over his glasses and said to me "You've got a rash. We can leave it to see what happens or I can give you some cream up to you"
    The point is it's all about diagnosis and not enough about treatment. We foster parents want advice and support on how to help the child, not just diagnosis, especially not diagnosis of a cobbled together catchphrase.