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Penny Williams

I challenge you to question the intention of your son’s actions. Is he INTENDING to bait you into a conflict. Is he consciously planning and executing this baiting? I would bet that it’s not a conscious action, but rather a symptom of lagging skills and discomfort and not feeling safe on his part.

The constant disagreement and inflexibility can be maddening for parents and any others around them, but this is a clear symptom of the ADHD brain, which can often only envision one way for something. For my own son, this extreme inflexibility and argumentativeness lead us to realize he’s also on the autism spectrum. It was more severe and more consistent than expected for ADHD. When my son is calm and the opportunity arises, I talk with him about alternatives. For example, if he is convinced that there’s only one way to drive to school, I talk to him about other routes. “What other way do you think we could have gone?” That’s a really generic example and only works for older kids (my son is 17) — you can have these conversations on just about anything in daily life. Even about the way a sandwich is made. 😉 The key is to teach them to think through brainstorming different possibilities for things, then the idea that there’s only one way or only one right answer begins to dissipate.

I personally believe that ODD is a diagnosis to label behavior, when that behavior is attributable to other things (and I know some professionals that agree). For instance, extreme inflexibility is common in individuals on the autism spectrum. The way behavior is addressed is what differentiates between improvement and constant opposition and defiance. Instead of telling yourself that he is hard-wired for defiance and opposition, look at each instance and what is causing the behavior, then you can improve it.

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ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Coach & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism