How To Support A Child With An ODD Diagnosis (with Amelia Bowler, BCBA)

Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder (with Amelia Bowler, BCBA) Featured Image

Amelia Bowler joined Erika Ng to discuss highlights from her book and provides personal and professional insights about supporting a child with an ODD diagnosis. Amelia’s compassionate and insightful approach to working with this unique group of children is due to her being a parent of a child with an ODD diagnosis and also an experienced clinician serving families in this area. This conversation covers some of the basics about Oppositional Defiant Disorder and her perspective on how to support these unique children with a behavior analytic approach.

Interview Highlights:

  • Amelia Bowler is a Behavior Analyst and a parent of a child with an ODD diagnosis. She has written a book called, “A Parent’s Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder”. Although this book is specialized, it has so much content that is widely applicable. It’s useful for any child, regardless of having a diagnosis or not. [1:01]
  • Amelia is a compassionate behavior analyst who’s committed to sharing evidence-based practices while having a deep level of empathy for the challenges that parents and young people are experiencing. Amelia also has a new book coming out in 2022 that’s geared towards teachers of students with an ODD diagnosis. [1:24]
  • There is no such thing as a normal compliance rate because it will change depending on the child’s age, your family’s situation, and one’s gender. [3:45]
  • The subtypes of ODD include: 1) headstrong 2) vindictive 3) irritable  [6:37]
  • Often when kids or students are acting in a way that adults don’t like, traditionally adults introduce some disincentive, like a punishment or a ‘consequence’. When kids turn it around on the adults and they start punishing parents’ behavior in very planned and specific ways, that’s called vindictiveness in the research literature. [7:44]
  • One thing that really helped change Amelia’s perspective was the writing of Dr. Mona Delahooke. She published a book called, “Beyond Behaviors” and she describes the concept of neuroception. It’s based in polyvagal theory. [9:56]
  • Gerald Patterson tried to describe what he was seeing in families that had a lot of conflict. What he saw was this – a parent gives a direction, a child says ‘NO’. The parent does one of two things, they insist and ask again and get louder, or they retreat. If the parent retreats, that reinforces the child’s resistance. If the child backs down when the parent gets louder, that reinforces the parent’s forcefulness. So what’s happening is the parent and the child are shaping each other’s behavior. [11:58]

“It’s time that we rethink the ‘always follow through rule’ –it’s not worth always following through.” — Amelia Bowler

  • ADHD tends to overlap a lot with ODD. Russell Barkley was one of the first people to really look at ADHD in a clinical way. He observed kids interacting with their parents while on stimulant medication and while not on stimulant medication. It was clear the parent’s behavior changed based on whether the child was on medication or not. [17:01]

We could start with something that might sound really stupid, but it’s one of my favorite things to tell myself: Don’t just do something, stand there.” — Amelia Bowler

  • Amelia’s advice to parents is to sometimes don’t jump into immediately doing something, just stand there. It’s amazing what will change five minutes from now. What you think life is going to be in five minutes is very, very often wrong. [19:53]

Sometimes not saying anything is really your most powerful weapon.” — Amelia Bowler

  • One thing that’s really hard to do as a parent is to be able to let some things go. We make a lot of assumptions and we have a lot of beliefs that are not necessarily true. [20:56]
  • If a family hasn’t received behavior consultation from a behavior analyst before, Amelia explains what it might look like. She said that not every person is going to be able to give all the information that you’re looking for by filling out a form or by talking like explaining everything on the first day. This is very approximate, but what Amelia likes to do is she’ll send people something they can fill out at their own pace. [23:52]
  • In the past, Amelia really enjoyed visiting people’s homes, watching how things play out, meeting the kids and asking their opinion on things. She models ways of speaking to kids when they’re trying to work through a problem. [25:01]
  • From Amelia’s experience, there are a couple of things that will get in your way as a parent. Number one is shame, and number two is expectations. [27:48]

The way to move forward really starts with acceptance.” — Amelia Bowler

  • There are some people that have helped shape Amelia’s point of view. One of them is Dr. John Gottman. He’s a psychologist that wrote about building kids’ emotional intelligence. He is definitely a person that Amelia recommends to look up because he has a nice way of looking at the world as a psychologist in a very analytical way, but also in a very practical and compassionate way. [29:58]

Guest Bio:

Amelia Bowler is a writer, artist and behaviour consultant. Her mission is to help families build empathy and cooperation. As a child, Amelia was diagnosed as “gifted” but struggled to stay organized and meet expectations at school. She resolved to become a classroom teacher, so she could help learners like herself.

She never stopped asking questions about the “WHY” of behaviour, and looking for creative new ways to teach. After earning a Master’s Degree in Applied Disability Studies with a specialization in Applied Behaviour Analysis, Amelia also gained her credential as a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst.

Through her experience as a mother to two high-spirited boys and working as a behaviour consultant in an multidisciplinary clinic, Amelia learned to infuse her clinical expertise with compassion, playfulness and perspective.

She lives in Toronto, writing, painting and teaching, using art and creativity to bring families closer together.

Photo Of Amelia Bowler

“To rebuild a relationship with the kids, we do have to be ready to set aside the things that offend us and the things that we’re hurt by.”

— Amelia Bowler

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We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Read the Transcript:

Erika Ng

Welcome to Behavioral Health Collective podcast, a community of behavior analysts who are passionate about sharing evidence-based practices from the perspective of behavior science. We connect families and educators to information that promotes robust behavioral health in the home, community, and classroom.

We are behavioral health practitioners who empower parents and caregivers by sharing behavioral resources that are current and evidence-based. At the Behavioral Health Collective, we set families and educators up for success by promoting meaningful and lasting behavioral health and skill development in the children or young people they work with.

Related Read: ABA Data Collection Software For Small Practices

Thanks so much for listening in today. I’m Erika Ng, the founder of Behavioral Health Collective podcast. If you’re a parent of a child diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder or an educator working with a child with this diagnosis, chances are you’ve had some moments that are challenging for both of you and that child.

Today’s guest, Amelia Bowler understands this from firsthand experience. She’s Behavior Analyst and a parent of a child with an ODD diagnosis. Amelia has written an incredible book called “A Parent’s Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder”. Although this book is specialized, it also has so much content. It’s applicable to really any child regardless of having a diagnosis or not.

Amelia is a very compassionate behavior analyst who’s committed to sharing evidence-based practices while having a deep level of empathy for the challenges that parents and young people are going through. Amelia also has a new book coming out in 2022 that’s geared towards teachers of students with an ODD diagnosis. So definitely stay tuned for that. 

Regardless of whether your child has this diagnosis, or maybe an ADHD diagnosis, or no diagnosis at all, I think Amelia’s insights can certainly be helpful. We talk about some highlights from her book and where to start if you’re finding yourself trapped in a cycle of challenging behaviors and challenging dynamics in your family.

So without further ado, let’s get to chatting with Amelia.

Okay, so Amelia, could you just define for listeners what Oppositional Defiant Disorder is? Just so we’re totally clear. 

Amelia Bowler

Ah, that is the question. Well, if your child has a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder that’s a, it’s a label that’s given by a medical professional, like a psychologist or a doctor. And it sounds like we know what it is. It sounds quite easy to understand because it’s a disorder. So we assume that means, we know there’s something wrong with your child. And it says oppositional and defiant, which we know what that means. It, it, we assume that it means whatever you tell your child to do, your child will do the opposite.

In reality, that’s not a real thing. Just to be really blunt about it, there’s no such thing as, as children who can’t understand the word ‘yes’. But there are relationships that, that aren’t working. And there are situations that are hard where people don’t agree. So what we’ve done is we’ve taken a whole category of disagreeing with adults, and we’ve decided that this is a pathological behavior and we’re going to find a label for it.

So in order, I mean, obviously disagreeing with adults, something that all children will do. So that’s a bit of a problem. There’s a bit of an objective. There’s a call that the physician or the psychologist has to make. Is this more difficult than, than your average child who’s going to disagree with you a certain percentage of the time?

We don’t know what that percentage is. There is no such thing as a, as a normal compliance rate because it will change depending on the child’s age, your family situation, one’s gender. Like this is not a norm referenced set of behaviors. Unfortunately, we just don’t have that, but if you as a parent and your care provider are under the impression that this is more difficult than, than usual, you may get this diagnosis. 

And if you look it up in the manual, it will give you a list of qualities that your child probably has. And if your child has some of them around half, then that’s enough to qualify. So it’s not a clear answer at all. It’s very subjective. It really depends on culture. And I really want to get that out there.

If a parent is, is told that disordered, very next thing they do is, is either blame their child or blame themselves. And that’s not a productive place to start working for them. 

Erika Ng

Yeah. And you mentioned in your book, there’s a really powerful quote about the most sorry, most defiant and oppositional behavior happens when a child’s environment collides with his or her abilities.

And I love that you’re reframing ODD to, you know, think, think about it as there being some skill deficits there and a mismatch in relationships and expectations like with the environment in that, in that child. And I think it’s so important that you mentioned relationships in there and it makes me think of school systems and what I’ve heard so commonly is this understanding that a child has an ODD diagnosis wants to defy, wants to be bad. 

They want to like get the teacher, get the aid. They want to behave in this oppositional manner, but I think you really counter that in your book to have a deeper understanding of what is actually going on for that child.

And, you know, just to give us how subjective and diverse this diagnosis can be. Could you also just explain a little bit about the subtypes of ODD and what are some of those main skill deficits or hallmarks of those subtypes?

Amelia Bowler

Oh, sure. Yes. Well, I’m glad that, that we’re not really, you know, we can’t really pin this down to just one type of child, but when you take a large group of these children and you lump them together, it’s really hard to get any, like clear correlations in the research.

But what researchers have tried to do to, to sort this out a little bit like maybe these kids aren’t exactly the same. Let’s see if we can based on which criteria they match with. Let’s see if we can tease this out a little bit. So the subtypes, you know, these might not be given to parents, but if you look at the symptoms, they sort of form three categories.

One category is it’s very emotional. It’s very sensitive. It’s very expressive. And there’s lots of ups and downs. So you’ll get outbursts and tears and aggression. The next category is more about conflict, but it’s not as emotional. You’ll have, I hope you’ve met one of these kids cause they’re, they’re fantastic.

I, they always remind me of a sort of rhinoceros approach. Like I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it. I don’t care what you’re saying, I’m just going to do it. Cheerfully telling you that. So it’s not a stormy conversation. It’s just like, very matter of fact. No, no, no. You don’t understand. You don’t want me to, okay. I’m still doing it.

And then the third group of symptoms is more about, Ooh, this is, this is maybe the hardest one for parents to deal with. It’s, you know, often when our kids or students are acting in a way that we don’t like, traditionally we introduced some kind of disincentive, like a punishment or a consequence. When kids turn it around on us and they start punishing our behavior in very planned and specific ways, that’s called vindictiveness in the research literature.

It’s a very hard thing to deal with it. It’s not common to every single child diagnosed with ODD, but, but it is something that, that is mentioned in the diagnosis. Is your child trying to get back at you? 

Erika Ng

Thank you for describing that. I think that’s just helpful as we, as we go through the following questions just to understand kind of the, it’s a wide diagnosis. There’s so many different kids and like you said, even one child, maybe, you know, who’s diagnosed with that, like headstrong subtype is like probably quite different from the next kid with the same diagnosis.

So I think that’s really important for us to understand. 

Amelia Bowler

Yeah, and I really want to do a good job of answering your question. So I want to pick up that on the question that you asked me about skill deficits. I think skill deficits is, is a very compassionate approach and I, I support it and I’m glad that I read Dr. Ross Greene’s work on like lagging skills and unmet needs. 

I think it is really, really helpful. But I do, I don’t want to paint all children with this diagnosis as having a deficiency, because when I’m speaking to parents, often, you know, they feel like their kids are running rings around them. These kids are gifted. They are, they’re resisting. They’re expressing.

They may not, they may not wish to comply with everything that’s being asked of them, or they may not be able to. And that’s not always the same thing. 

Erika Ng

Yeah. That’s a really good point. That’s such a good way to look at it that not, I mean, again, it just reinforced that idea that it’s such a, a wide subjective diagnosis that so many kids are very different.

Yeah. That’s a really good point that they’re not, they don’t all have skill deficits. Many of them are highly skilled. 

Amelia Bowler

One thing that that really helped to change my perspective was the, the writing of Dr. Mona Delahooke. She published a book a year or two ago called “Beyond Behaviors” and she described the concept of neuroception. It’s based in polyvagal theory. 

And as a parent, that was another way, it was another lens for me to look at my child’s behavior because I had all my traditional behavior training and I was saying, okay, I’m looking at the contingencies. I’m looking, I’m at, I’m analyzing the antecedents and the consequences.

And this makes no sense to me. Why, why are we running into the same brick wall over and over again? And, and Mona Delahooke does, does a wonderful job of, of helping parents understand how stress and fear can flavor a situation and can make our best intentions really backfire. 

Erika Ng

Interesting. I think you really emphasize in the book of, you know, the parents stepping back to kind of look at the situation, you know, in a holistic manner, like what is going on there.

And I, and I just want to pickup what you were talking about earlier about relationship and something you talk about as the course of cycle in your book. So could you describe a bit of that coercion cycle there and how it can play into the breakdown of relationship and, cause that is such a key part with ODD. 

Amelia Bowler

Yes. 100%. If you look at the research on ODD, this is maybe one of the things that we, we understand the best. Gerald Patterson introduced it in the ’80s. Can you believe like that was, the ’80s was like 15 minutes ago. I don’t remember. So like a lot of this research, a lot of these definitions that we’re throwing around now, they weren’t around when we were kids like our experience.

We’re naive to all of this, and I’m glad that our kids can, can grow up in a world where, where we’re actually asking these questions. Anyway, so Gerald Patterson try to describe what he was seeing in families that had a lot of conflict. And so what he saw was this, a parent gives a direction, a child says no. Our resists or ignores, and the parent does one of two things. You can insist and ask again and get louder, or you can retreat. 

If the parent retreats, that sort of reinforces the child resistance. If the child backs down when the parent gets louder, that kind of reinforces the parent’s forcefulness. So what’s happening is the parent and the child are shaping each other’s behavior. Sometimes this is like a little feedback loop, like ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore, explode.

And then the other side sort of quickly learned that to shape their behavior. I, I’ve talked to so many parents that have said, you know, my kids just don’t listen to me unless I yell. That would be an example of the course of cycle at work because the parent’s behavior has been shaped. Like being nice doesn’t work.

So I better be more forceful. Unfortunately as time goes on, the kids get more used to being yelled at and some they get better at ignoring or they find better ways of avoiding once the parent’s behavior gets more forceful. And it’s, it’s really, really harmful because you have these two forces that are just very resourceful and you’ve got lots of time.

And this is also a relationship that you have a long history. When a child goes to school and meets like a new teacher and a new aid, that’s a fresh start. The parents have these histories following them around and they may find it very hard to, to hit the reset button. 

Erika Ng

That is a very clear example of that. Thank you for describing that. And I’m sure that same, I think that the school example is great too, actually, because you know, we’ve seen students where, you know, that relationship when you were like very challenging and then September rolls around the following year and sure they’ve matured a bit over the summer potentially, but depending on that, you know, next year, that new relationship with that new aid or new teacher can be such a good opportunity. 

So thanks for mentioning that to like relate it to the school setting too. 

Amelia Bowler

Sure. 

Erika Ng

Now you mentioned as BCBA that a lot of the typical behavior strategies, like you, said, like analyze the antecedents, analyzing the consequences, and making a plan accordingly that we were trained to use as BCBAs and our evidence-based with most children often do not work for a child with some sort of ODD falling in that, in that realm with that OD diagnosis. 

So what might be something that parents should look at first or like really stop, like, think about what do they need to stop doing that could be making things worse actually, if they’re kind of looking at it in more of a traditional approach? 

Amelia Bowler

Yeah. Well, I’ll try to give an example that’s personal to me because there are things that I did with the best of intentions. Like, oh, this, don’t worry, I got this. I read it in a book that I really cringe when I look back on. And so in general, I would say to parents, like it’s really time that we rethink the always follow through rule is not worth always following through.

This rule will take you to the edge and sometimes beyond the line of abuse. Yeah, I just, I still remember one day where my child wouldn’t brush his teeth. And so, you know, the BCBA training kicks in and like, all right, we’re going to do a prompt hierarchy. You know, he’s gestural prompt. You use a partial physical prompt.

And by the time we got to full physical prompt, we had a child who was in extreme distress because he feels powerless in the situation. And I look back and I think like, why did I feel like I had to do that? It was, it was not, I really believed that if I, if I like powered through, if I got through that horrible resistance that the next time would be easier, that may not be the case. 

It may be that there’s a trust broken. The more you try to force and then the resistance on the other side grows. And then there’s the risk of that course of circle or a cycle. 

Erika Ng

Yeah, thank you for sharing that personal example. I’m sure that would resonate with a lot of parents and you do put a significant focus on parents, really thinking about self-reflection and you know, how am I interacting with my child?

And that first part of the book is really about understanding ODD, but how parents need to be the first to make some changes by highlighting kind of that chicken and egg cycle between challenging behavior and parenting style. I think you mentioned that is actually easier for the child to shape the parent’s behavior, than the parent did shape the child’s behavior. 

There is, I think a research study you mentioned. 

Amelia Bowler

Yeah, Russell Barkley’s work. He, he was one of the first people to, to really look at ADHD in a serious clinical way. And ADHD tends to overlap a lot with ODD. So he observed kids interacting with their parents while on stimulant meds and while not on stimulant meds.

And it was amazing how much the parents behavior changed based on what the child was doing. Much less negative feedback because I guess, I guess our kids, we’re very, very sensitive to our kids’ behavior and we’re very sensitive to our own sort of beliefs and habits. And it’s, it’s hard, I think, to, to, to use fresh eyes and look at what’s going on with your child without bringing everything that, that we’ve learned and, and everything we’re feeling that day. 

Erika Ng

Yeah. Hmm. Would you say then, you know, if a parent is kind of maybe even right now, listening to this and thinking like, okay, what kind of in this course of cycle? I know you really highlight that importance of modeling emotional regulation for their child.

What might be a few quick, quick wins, I guess you could say, or a few changes that a parent could make right away to kind of get, give them those bang for their buck to help them kind of get to a space where they can do that reflection and like zoom out a bit? 

Amelia Bowler

Okay. Well, we could start with something that might sound really stupid, but it’s, it’s one of my favorite things to tell myself. It’s, don’t just do something, stand there. Like when we are watching something happen and we’re feeling offended and we feel, oh, this must not, this is not okay. This cannot be tolerated. I have to do something. This something that we choose to do is not always what we wish we had done. This something is not always appropriate or thought out, or helpful, but it feels like I just have to, I have to respond to this somehow. 

And so we almost go on automatic pilot. And if we can train ourselves to just pause, and say, you know what? This is maybe like if it’s a situation where somebody is an actual danger, I definitely don’t want anyone to be physically injured by not acting. But let’s say someone has just called you a very outrageous name.

And you remember all the times that, you know, your parents responded to you when they were offended by your behavior. And you say, I’m going to deal with this right now. That’s probably a bad sign. It’s probably what you’re not doing your very best parenting. So if you feel like, oh my gosh, I have to do something right now.

My best advice is that it’s amazing what will change five minutes from now. What you think life is going to be like in five minutes. It’s very, very often wrong. Honestly, there’s very little harm that can come from just taking a minute and thinking like, what was that? All of my feeling about that. Sometimes not saying anything is really your most powerful weapon.

Erika Ng

That is awesome. So simple and yet easy to remember. I get that. I like that phrase. 

Amelia Bowler

I’m just doing some things down there. 

Erika Ng

That’s so great. Don’t just do something, stand there. That’s wisdom. Thank you for that. 

Now, once a parent has been able to focus maybe on their own emotional regulation like this, don’t just do something, stand there and I’m gonna be working on some modeling as well for their child.

What are one or two things that might be a good next step to building their relationship with their child, to like rebuilding the relationship with their child?

Amelia Bowler

Gosh, I think one thing that’s really hard to do as a parent is, is to set aside a lot. We make a lot of assumptions and we have a lot of beliefs that are not necessarily true.

And even the things our kids tell us in the moment are not necessarily true when they say, I hate you. You don’t like write it down, like, okay. And he now hates me. And that is, that’s a fact, that’s not necessarily a fact, like not everything is, is really important information. So it’s very hard sometimes to take the, the information that we’re getting and sorted out. 

Like this is gold, this is a nugget right here. I can really use this as opposed to this is confusing or this is upsetting and it’s not telling me anything. But to really rebuild a relationship with the kids, we do have to be ready to set aside the things that offend us and the things that we’re hurt by because we, our kids can’t heal those wounds that, you know, those sore spots, they cannot compensate for the things that we didn’t get earlier in the day. 

So we can’t, we can’t expect our kids to go through like a reconciliation there. We really have to be able to do that work ourselves and say, you know what? Fresh start. Hi, can we sit together? 

Erika Ng

Yeah. Yeah. Simple yet meaningful.

Amelia Bowler

Coming to the table, like with clean hands would be the, I think the first step to, to reconnecting. I think in our house we call it bringing back the love. I was writing my kids this morning, like I think the love is always there. It’s just sometimes covered up and I can’t see it, but like the sun goes behind a cloud, it’s still there. I need to remember that, that my love for my kids and their love for me is, is always there. 

Erika Ng

That’s really beautiful and meaningful. And again, yeah, simple yet profound. 

Now, if some families are finding themselves, you know, they’ve maybe even like read your book, tried a couple of things and they’re still really struggling.

I just wanted to ask you a little bit more about your consultation services. Kind of what does that system look like? You know if a family hasn’t received behavior consultation from the behavior analyst before, what might that look like? And at what point maybe would a family consider getting professional help versus, you know, reading your book or seeking out similar resources?

Amelia Bowler

Hmm. Okay. Well, I want to say right off the bat, that, that, that the process that I go through, it’s this is going to be a very general description. Like I definitely want to be sensitive to people depending on their background, depending on their culture. 

Like not every, not every person is going to be able to give me all the information that I’m looking for by filling out a form, for by like talking, like explaining everything on the first day. So this is very approximate, but what I like to do is i’ll send people link and I’ll ask them a few questions that they can just kind of take it at their own pace.

Like fill me in on a few things. Where have you been with this? Like what’s, what sort of other services have you looked at? What are the situations that are really bothering you the most? Then we schedule a half an hour phone call and sometimes I get carried away as longer, but it’s free. It’s just because I, I want to get a sense of, is this somebody that I think I can help and I want the family to get a sense of what would it look like to ask for help and to, what would we do together? 

I don’t, I can’t ask for consent to treat somebody if they don’t know me. So there’s a little get to know you process. After that, you know, because of COVID, it’s really been primarily remote, like phone-based even for people who live locally. 

In the past, I have really enjoyed visiting people’s homes and just watching how things play out and, and saying hello to the kids and asking their opinion on things and modeling ways of speaking to kids when we’re trying to work through a problem. That can be really useful. If I don’t have that, that’s okay. Because sometimes as parents, there’s things you want to say that you don’t want your kids to care.

So we spend time on the phone. We try to look at specific situations, what led up to it, and if I can think of like a quick, either here’s, here’s a step that you may want to take that may just prevent this altogether. I’ll definitely throw that out there. And if I don’t understand why it’s happening, then the next step would be, let’s see if we can figure out what these variables are.

What if you did this differently, would it still happen? Like sometimes there’s an investigative process that we go through before we try to solve the problem. 

Erika Ng

Okay. And yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really helpful to make clear to families that it’s very very much tailored to their specific needs. And I think to even just understand that it’s like a very conversational relational situation to to use professional services.

How long would you say you would typically work with a family for? 

Amelia Bowler

Some families I think want to work long-term. I try to work myself out of a job as soon as possible. And I’m always delighted if we can solve the problem in the first 45 minutes. That’s great. But I think because the work that we do is so situational, I think we just work on one little piece at a time and over time, what I, what I’d like to do is build up a set of skills for the parent that they can keep using in these as new situations pop up. So we, we start with this specific and then we move to the general. 

When parents have a bit more confidence, like I love cheerleading. I love telling parents what they’re doing right. They tend to not call me for awhile and then maybe eight months down the line, they’ll say, you know what, we’re really having this issue. Can you weigh in on it? And that’s great. It can be a very casual relationship. 

Erika Ng

Okay. That’s really good to know. Thank you for outlining that. Okay, so kind of just moving into a wrap up here.

If there was one thing you could recommend to families that are struggling, maybe with a new diagnosis for their child with ODD, what would, what would be your recommendation? 

I mean, you’ve already had a lot of nuggets in this conversation, but what would be like the number one thing that you would, you would say from your own personal and professional experience?

Amelia Bowler

I would say that there are a couple of things that, that will get in your way. And that’s number one, shame and number two, expectations. Like my child should be a certain way. I should be able to do this. And I guess the shame and expectations go hand in hand. Instead I, I would say that the way to move forward really starts with acceptance.

Like this is where I’m at. This is where this kid is at. This is how it’s affecting me right now. But, but I know that life is unpredictable and that things can change and I’m open to that. I’m open to things changing. The worst thing we can do is just saying, well, I’m like this and he’s like this, and it’ll never work and he’s pathological and that that’s not going to get us anywhere.

We have to explore some possibilities and, and maybe just look with some compassion on the way things are right now for you and for your kid. 

Erika Ng

Yeah. You know, I’m glad you just use that word compassionate, ’cause I wanted to say that, that I think your approach in the book is so clearly compassionate for both the child and the parent, which is, is just so amazing.

And I think makes that so acceptable to families. And just acknowledging that, that there will be feelings of shame or, you know, should my child should be this way. So yeah. Thank you. Thank you for that. I just think it’s such an accessible thing for families. 

Aside from your book, could you share any other resources that are helpful for families that might be struggling with other things? 

Amelia Bowler

Yes. Well, if, if you like the way I say things, you can, you can go to my website. It’s ameliabehaviour.com, which is behavior spelled the Canadian way, usually. Or even just my name, ameliabowler.com should get you there. I have another book coming out next spring, specifically for teachers.

Erika Ng

Great. 

Amelia Bowler

So you may put that in your child’s backpack. 

Erika Ng

Yeah. That’s so funny. That’s a great idea. 

Amelia Bowler

You know, there are some names of people that are, that have really helped to shape my point of view. And one of them that we haven’t mentioned yet is Dr. John Gottman. He’s a wonderful psychologist and he wrote about building kids’ emotional intelligence. So he is definitely a person that I would look up because he has a nice way of really looking at, looking at the world, you know, as a psychologist in a very analytical way, but, but in a very practical way and in a very compassionate way.

So, yeah, he’s, he’s the one to look up for sure. John Gottman. 

Erika Ng

Fantastic. Well, I will put both your book and the link to John Gottman in the show notes. So thank you for that. 

It was so great hearing from you, Amelia. Thank you so much for sharing your insights both as a parent and as a professional and a behavior analyst who’s working with this really unique population who I think is quite misunderstood and is very diverse.

It’s a broad group of kids who are so individual and unique. So you mentioned your websites. That’s great. I will put all of this in the show notes. You mentioned your book coming up. Do you have anything else you wanted to mention to listeners like any workshops coming up or any other new, new things for you?

Amelia Bowler

Things have been a little bit quiet. If you are a clinician, I would recommend Googling my name and we can, there’s a course that you can take. 

Erika Ng

Oh, awesome. 

Amelia Bowler

That will sort of walk you through a lot, the deeper more BCBA type stuff. 

Erika Ng

Okay, fantastic. 

Amelia Bowler

Yeah. Or you know what, I, I wouldn’t mind just hearing from people if they have questions. You can contact me directly. I also paint and draw. So, if you find me on Instagram, you’ll see some of the things that I think are important, plus some watercolor paintings. 

Erika Ng

Yeah. I love your art. So beautiful. That’s fantastic. Well, that’s great. 

Thank you so much for all of that and yeah, enjoy your afternoon. Thank you again, Amelia.

Amelia Bowler

Take care. 

Erika Ng

Take care. 

The comments and views expressed in this podcast do not constitute or replace contractual behavior analytic consultation, or professional advice. Views expressed are solely the perspective of the speaker and do not represent the views or position of their colleagues, employer, or other associates. Please seek out a behavior analyst through BACB website if you’d like to receive further behavior consultation. Until next time. Take care.

Related Read: How To Hire A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

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