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Last Updated: 03/12/2018


Article of Interest - Book Review: ODD

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X-tra Special Advice: 'The Dance of Defiance'
Mary Beth Langan, Grosse Pointe News, August 4, 2005
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The headline 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 behavioral professionals.”

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 it.”

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 great.

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 words.

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 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 []. Send your questions or comments to


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