New Member
I am a male, middle school teacher in New Jersey and I am looking for help regarding a student. I don't know if he qualifies as a conduct disorder under this site or any other definition. This 10-11 year old boy has demonstrated extreme emotional reactions to grades or missed work. He has an A to A- average and rarely misses any work or achieves a grade lower than B. His outbursts have ranged from hysterical crying to curling up into a ball on the floor to most his most recent outburst that scared me and several of his peers. The last incident consisted of hitting himself 15-20 times on the legs, hysterical crying and dropping to his knees in a ball. This lasted for about five minutes and he hit himself so hard I could feel the vibrations in the floor. The outburst occurred after he forgot to do a homework assignment. According to the school counselor, he has told her he knows when he is going to explode but he never shows any sign of it in class. I am honestly scared of and for this student. I am scared that his next outburst can lead him to hurt himself or another person in the class. Does any of this sound familiar?


New Member
Welcome to the site! It is always refreshing to see professionals seeking out advice on children like ours. The following is a listing of criteria for conduct disorder.
Children or adolescents with conduct disorder may exhibit some of the following behaviors:

Aggression to people and animals

bullies, threatens or intimidates others
often initiates physical fights
has used a weapon that could cause serious physical harm to others (e.g. a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife or gun)
is physically cruel to people or animals
steals from a victim while confronting them (e.g. assault)
forces someone into sexual activity
Destruction of Property

deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention to cause damage
deliberately destroys other's property
Deceitfulness, lying, or stealing

has broken into someone else's building, house, or car
lies to obtain goods, or favors or to avoid obligations
steals items without confronting a victim (e.g. shoplifting, but without breaking and entering)
Serious violations of rules

often stays out at night despite parental objections
runs away from home
often truant from school

This child , the way that you have described him does not really sound cd to me. However, he does sound as if he has anxiety issues based on his grades/ schoolwork? Have you spoken to his parents regarding these behaviors? Although his behaviors do sound scary, they appear to be aimed at himself rather than others.
Again, congrats for seeking help for yourself and this student. I'm sure others will be along with more insight, but I wanted to welcome you. Please let us know more about this student when you can.



Welcome to the site. I agree that this student appears to have extreme performance anxiety. Do you know if he has ever had a school-based evaluation, or if his parents have ever taken him for an evaluation? Do you know of anything unusual going on at home? Are the behaviors new, or have other teachers noted them in the past? Does he have an IEP or 504 accommodations?


Active Member
Have you mentioned this to his parents? Perhaps, because he is such a good student, they aren't aware that this is going on? Have you asked his prior teachers if this has been a problem in the past?


New Member
welcome & thank you for being so caring about your students.

conduct disorders is pretty much an umbrella term when used in the name of this board. it covers a lot of territory from adhd, bipolar, depression, anxiety,etc.

i have the same questions. i assume you've approached the parents. what's their take on this extreme reaction he has? have they considered an evaluation? have you referred him for a school based evaluation? is he, perchance, getting undue pressure at home to be the perfect student?



Well-Known Member
Middle school, with it's increased academic & social demands, coupled with puberty can often cause a child who is functioning marginally to fall apart. I would think an official meeting with this child's parents is in order so that appropriate supports can be put in place.


New Member
is there a possibility this child is gifted? I know, both from my own son, and talking with others, that it's often the middle school years that gifted kids (especially if there is another underlying problem) begin to fall apart.
Changing classes, more homework and responsibility, the whole maturing thing sometimes is just too much for a child that has been able to "skate" along until now. And gifted kids often are perfectionists.

I think it's great that you want to help this child. I wish my son had had you for a teacher in 5th or 6th grade, perhaps we could have saved a bit of his self esteem in those years!


Well-Known Member
Is this a new student to your district? Aren't there any notes in his student file about this? I understand that this is his first year in your school, but doesn't he come from the school that feeds into yours? You should be able to contact them and get some sort of history that would help you out.

This could be many things. It wouldn't be fair of us to try to diagnose here. It sounds like the very least that could be done would be some non-judgmental conversation with mom and/or dad.


New Member
First, let me thank everyone for their quick response and willingness to help this boy.

It is obvious I left some information out. The child is a true middle son of three sons. Dad is an ex-professional athltete and is a type A personality to the fullest extent. The other two sons are more talented, have better grades and are better athletes. This boy is almost Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) about his organization and cleanliness of his locker, books and room at home. Yet, on common listening tasks he has trouble following through on directions.

As I am at home now without my notes I cannot remember if he has ever been evaluated, however, he does see a therapist. The notes I recceived from the therapist really are not useful. Along with my colleagues I have tried the strategies the therapist has recommended to no avail. The counselor at school has never witnessed the outbursts and in all honesty has downplayed the seriousness (after the latest outburst she said I did not need to call the parents-I did however make contact anyway).

The boy is the youngest student in the grade of 35. Our school goes from grades 6-12 so he is a new student. When I last reviewed his records I do not recall seeing any mention of these reactions. He does not have many friends because he began the year acting overly immature in an effort to fit in. He often spoke in a baby voice, whined and to this day he gets into other people's business.

While I know that he has perfomance anxiety, I am more concerned that there is more underlying. Students were in the room during his last outburst and I am afraid he may hurt himself or worse some other child. He says he knows when he is getting upset, but I don't think he knows the extent to which he is demonstrating his frustration.

As a side note, not only am I concerned about his behavior in class, but as the baseball coach, I am concerned that he may get to a point where his frustration on the field manifests itself in a violent manner.

Again, thank you for your help, understanding and concern.


New Member

I also want to thank you for going to the extra mile for this kid. As a parent of a difficult child that can act up in the classroom it is very meaningful to see that you care. I would like to suggest one thing, the boy may understand fully how much his behavior is different then the other kids but not be able to control it. There isn't much of a pay-off to let your peers see that kind of behavior and the reaction from his peers that you describe is one of my fears for my son. My child is only 8 and so far the class has adapted to his outbursts. I imagine the kids will take a cue from how you deal with it so I would try to be low keyed about it in the classroom. I know my son's outbursts scare the teachers in the beginning of the year but they also adjust as the year progresses. I know I would want to know if my son were being teased by the kids in school for the outbursts, other then that I don't know what you can do.

Stella Johnson

Active Member
I'm always happy to see teachers coming here out of concern for their students. You are going the extra mile for this kid. :bravo:

Is he on any medication? Just therapy? Does he see a psychiatrist or have an IEP?




New Member
My difficult child does the hitting himself hard and calls himself names when he forgets something or does something stupid, but I have only witnessed it here at home where no one can see. For my difficult child it's anxiety/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and frustration. He tries so hard to be good and do right and when he makes a mistake or forgets something, he goes into this behavior. But again, only at home that I am aware of..his teachers have said nothing.

I feel for the kid though. I know how hard it is for difficult child when he gets this way and takes it out on himself. Although my difficult child does have ODD as well, I can honestly say, I know when he goes into this mode it is self-harm, he wouldn't go after another as long as he is in his own space

It's never easy for these kids. Thanks for looking out for him :smile: I would definately talk to his parents. This is such a critical point in his life.


Active Member
If he can tell when its coming can he tell you before hand and then go to a place set up for him to express his frustration in a more appropriate manner? I hope they are going over expressing frustration in his therapy.

Also, I know that when my difficult child is internalizing his frustration (and hitting himself) he is less likely to attack his brothers then when he is blaming them instead of himself.


Active Member
OK, I know I see Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) under every rock, but this sure sounds very Aspie to me. Of course, it could be a number of things, but I would at least be checking out Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)/Asperger's type issues - giving the possibility a closer look. The Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the extreme anxiety especially performance-based, other kids in the family being bright, curling up into a ball on the floor and self-harm stuff linking in with it all - especially with problems becoming more apparent at a time when Aspies tend to have more trouble coping. The increase in immature behaviour, not too many age-appropriate friends - red flags.

I agree with the others - arrange a talk to the parents. However, don't be too surprised if the pressure to perform is NOT coming from the parents as much as you think.

For your own thoughts on the subject, a starting point would be to have a look at the informal questionnaire on Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) found on www.childbrain.com. It's not diagnostic, but it could give you some ideas. Normally we advise people to do the test, print the results and take them to the child's specialist, but I wouldn't do that here. You could maybe have a check for yourself, but I wouldn't pre-empt the parents' right to check this out independently. Maybe ask them a few questions for your own thoughts, or see where the discussion takes you. They may already have some concerns which have not yet gelled. If you think they are receptive you could pass the website on to them.

It's not unusual for one or more parents to be in denial; it's also not unusual for parents to have concerns and had them dispelled repeatedly, or been told that they have to wait for an assessment. It can take a long time to get solid answers - sometimes we don't get answers even when we've been searching for years.

I hope they welcome your concerns. Teachers who take their concerns to this length - I value them. I may disagree with them but I know they were motivated by concerns for my child and that is what I value. And sometimes, even if they are wrong and so are we, the joint efforts can lead to a third, more likely answer that we may never have discovered were it not for some healthy collaboration.

Good luck and thank you for caring.



New Member
you said you contacted the parents after this episode. what kind of reaction did you get from them?

be careful about what *suggestions* you make to the parents. i know some states/districts are very strict about this due to the possibility of litigation.

it does sound like this young boy is under an extremely amount of performance pressure & feels like he's playing catch up with-his sibs. poor guy.



Well-Known Member
I didn't read all the responses (Just woke up), but the hitting himself and outbursts when he isn't perfect reminds me more of the autism spectrum (Asperbers kids can be brilliant) than any sort of conduct disorder. My son is on the Spectrum and used to slap himself, but he had a lot of interventions and doesn't do this, or the outbursts, anymore. But the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is part of Asperbers too. I would suggest a neuropsychologist evaluation. The school isn't really qualified to diagnose this. Nor is a talk therapist. Although there are exceptions, kids with bipolar or mood disorders tend to do poorly in school, even if they're smart, and anxiety rarely stands alone. A child his age KNOWS it's inappropriate to have an outburst, even if he has anxiety. Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids tend to have severe social problems and inappropriateness. For some reasons, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) red flags are popping out everywhere with this child. I have bipolar II and a mild form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorder. It isn't fitting in there, at least not to me.