Advice: 'The Dance of Defiance'
Mary Beth Langan, Grosse Pointe News, August 4, 2005
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above describes a movement of steps. As one dance partner moves,
the other responds. The dance can be a fluid pattern of steps to
beautiful music or a frustrating trial of errors. It depends on
how the partners respond to one another.
This headline is also the title of a newly published book by
former Grosse Pointe Farms resident Nancy A. Hagener. The Dance
of Defiance: A Mother and Son Journey with Oppositional Defiant
Disorder takes readers on a journey as Hagener searches for
answers to her son’s defiant behavior. Filled with heartwarming
stories, honest insights, and enlightening discoveries, The
Dance of Defiance is a story of hope.
What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)? The American
Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV-TR Manual describes ODD as
“negativistic and defiant behaviors expressed by persistent
stubbornness, resistance to directions, and unwillingness to
compromise, give in, or negotiate with adults or peers.” These
behaviors are typically present in the home setting but may not
occur in school or other settings. They also occur more
frequently than is typically observed in individuals of
comparable age and developmental level.
The book follows the journey of a mother struggling to find the
right diagnosis for her son’s perplexing behavior. Until the
disorder was properly diagnosed, Hagener and her family were at
a loss for treatment options. The search was long and difficult.
Getting the diagnosis took years, but receiving an accurate
diagnosis was a critical part of the journey. As one parent in
the book describes it, “They knew something was wrong. It had a
name. Now they could move forward.”
The Dance of Defiance helps readers to identify characteristics
common to ODD and provides strategies for parents, teachers, and
spouses raising defiant children. The world of sibling
relationships is also explored. Furthermore, the book addresses
co-existing disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD), mood disorders/depression, anxiety disorders,
and learning disabilities. Many times these disorders exist at
the same time, leading to further confusion.
Hagener brings a parent’s perspective to readers searching for
insights and resources for their children. She brings her
personal experience and professional experience as a special
education teacher as she tells the painful but rewarding
discovery of the biological basis of her son’s defiant behavior.
Dr. Drake D. Duane, noted neurologist in Scottsdale, Arizona,
states, “Rich in facts, warm in humor, compelling in passion,
this book is an inspiration for parents and a lesson for
Shared conversations include professionals who offered support
and encouragement along the way. In one touching moment, we
glimpse the priceless gift of compassion as a pediatrician
validates the struggles and isolation Hagener and her family had
been living. Dr. Susan Youngs, medical director of the Program
for Exceptional Families at Oakwood Healthcare System in Lincoln
Park, Michigan, describes living on a day-to-day basis with
defiant behavior as “the hardest to deal with because other
people simply do not, cannot, understand it unless they’ve lived
The Dance of Defiance visits a world “where physical
disabilities elicit compassion while behavioral, chemical, or
biological imbalances elicit harsh judgment and unfounded
criticism.” Parents raising children with special needs live in
this world and need support, hope, and healing.
The importance of teachers’ roles is explored. Once Hagener
involved teachers in her son’s struggle, resources became more
available and timely. Rather than keeping people at a distance,
she learned that sharing with others often leads to the best
help. However, in reading about the journey, parents can see
themselves in the same despair and isolation Hagener and her
family were in.
Finding the right help once parents have a diagnosis is often a
struggle – something true for many parents, not just parents of
a defiant child. Behavior modification is one way of treating
ODD. In some instances, medication is needed. A combination of
both may be necessary. It is all part of a big puzzle. Finding
the right pieces and fitting them together is key.
The knowledge that the problem is real—not imagined—gives
parents encouragement. What readers will take away from this
book—in addition to hope, encouragement, insights, and
resources—is that treatment is an ongoing, team commitment.
Pediatricians, neurologists, therapists, and teachers must work
together with parents for the sake of the child. Parents cannot
give up on their child. The stakes are high. The rewards are
Many parents, not only parents of a defiant child, will benefit
from Hagener’s book, from her well-written shared experiences,
her collection of wisdom from other parents and professionals,
and her in-depth list of references to help ease the journey.
Hagener recently returned to town for a book reception at the
home of Martha Miller of Grosse Pointe Farms. The author was
pleased to have the opportunity to connect with parents and
professionals in the area. Many parents and professionals will
be pleased to connect with Hagener by reading her insightful
The Dance of Defiance: A Mother and Son Journey with
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
By Nancy A. Hagener
ISBN# 0-9765579-0-8 Hardcover $19.95
ISBN# 0-9765579-1-6 Soft cover $14.95
Shamrock Books, LLC, 11445 E. Via Linda, PMB 321
Scottsdale, AZ 85259
Available at www.amazon.com
or order from your favorite bookstore.
Grosse Pointe residents Theodore G. Coutilish and Mary Beth
Langan created this column to share experiences from their
journey as parents of a child with Fragile X syndrome [fragilex.org].
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