Anyone else's child argue/ say the opposite of EVERYTHING, like a compulsion?


Every dog has his day....
Hi All!
I've lurked here from time to time, just looking for answers and sometimes just to realize husband and I are not alone in raising DS. I have 2 kids, DS that is 4 y/o given Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnoses at 2, but they are now saying they believe he maybe ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), ODD, but won't diagnose so young. My other little one is 15 months, and shows none of the delays / social issues my older one showed.
So it my older son in question here.

He has had a compulsion to say the opposite of everything since language started during ST. At the time the therapist really blew off my concern for this odd habit, but now its grown into him being argumentative with everything. To the point that husband and I find ourselves avoiding interaction with him because its so exhausting and unpleasant. He denies reality. That's the best way I can describe it. Example:

If we were in an aisle at the store, he might point at someone and say, "I don't see anyone there". At which point husband or I might say "yes there is a woman there." And he will say "No there's not." This would go on, so we don't even acknowledge these statements. When he was learning to talk with ST, if we said a word like "downtown" he'd get very angry and say "NO! UP town". If he saw a red light, he yell that the light was green. The therapists kept telling us that we should be amazed at his understanding of opposites, and to let it go, and it would stop.

He used to argue with the TV and talking toys. We had a toy that said "Its learning time" and he'd yell "No it kearning time" Or "zearning time" or whatever rhymed, because if he couldn't think of the opposite, he made up a nonsence word. This behavior has decreased over the past year.

Its like he is so driven to argue that it is his primary way to interact. The therapists and doctor don't really have any suggestions, and won't officially diagnose him this young, which I understand. I'm just wondering has anyone ever seen this before?


Active Member
I would not be too hasty to discard the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnosis. The other labels suggested are often found in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) anyway, so I can't see why they would say it's mutually exclusive.

ODD - I hate that tag, because it implies that the child is choosing to be difficult. I also increasingly believe that the classic ODD as described, is something we tend to cause in our children (obviously not intentionally!) because the parenting methods we might be using, which would be perfectly okay (often recommended) for most kids, actually work against our difficult children purely because of te nature of their underlying disability, whatever it may be.

In other words - you are not bad parents, but something you are doing, or someone is doing, is somehow making this worse even though this doesn't always seem to make sense.

This has been going on since he began to talk - interesting. Was he language-delayed?

WHat can happen with this kind of behaviour, especially when it first starts and especially if you don't think there are any problems, is that you tend to correct the child gently. As you do, as anyone would do. "No, dear, it's not blue, that colour is red." We instruct.

But for some reason, your son feels a desperate need to be contrary. This flies in the face of everything I generally say about ODD, makes a liar out of me! :)

What I think might be happening - Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids find life VERY frustrating and their "terrible twos" last a lot longer, are a lot worse and don't necessarily hit at age 2. I'm wondering if being deliberately contrary was his way of trying to cope with the ager and frustration. If so, it was very creative and indicative of a very bright kid in there somewhere.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids can get very inventive in their coping skills. However, those coping skills are not always very effective or very appropriate. These are kids, after all, they are trying to find some way of managing their problems and they don't have a wealth of experience to draw on. Even when you try to help them, it can take a long time for the penny to drop.
For example - when difficult child 3 was about 8 years old, he saw a therapist who, among other things, explained to him about deep breathing to help reduce his anxiety. We even wrote out the instructions on a card. I stuck the card behind the toilet door - a major learning centre in our house. We use any sitting time as thinking time.
Over the years I've tried to touch base with breathing techniques for difficult child 3 to no avail. Admittedly, his anxiety at times has been so extreme that we actually risk developing a conditioned response AGAINST any coping strategy we try to use; he feels sick, we suggest deep breathing, he associates deep breathing with nausea.
A few months ago his current therapist suggested deep breathing. She wanted to go through a breathing exercise with him. He was loudly hostile, almost to the point where she suggested there was no point her continuing to see him if he was going to be so negative. She still gave him a printout of her instructions.
Last therapist session he told her, rather sheepishly, that he had tried the deep breathing and found it worked. Moreover, he had been online gaming with a friend form somewhere in the world, and the friend began to get upset. difficult child 3 told the friend to take some deep breaths. He said it seemed to help the friend, too.
So from something we introduced when he was 8 - he's almost 18 and he is finally beginning to get it...

A suggestion with your son - where possible, stop trying to counter what he says. Instead, try agreeing with him. Even if it is ridiculous. In fact, play on the ridiculous, as if he is playing a game. "Of course there are no people in that aisle..." [when there are crowds]. "...I wonder how this store can manage to stay open, with so little business." Develop this further. "We must be the only people in the store, isn't it nice to have the place to ourselves?"
Or you could engage someone in conversation and perhaps say to him that you were actually talking to yourself.
I suspect initially this will confuse him and could make him angry. But if you keep this light and even fun, he might relax and begin to think about why he has to be opposite.

I'm also wondering what happens if you ask him, "Why do you feel you have to say the opposite of what I do? Do you need to be right? Or do you need me to be wrong? How does this make you feel? Does it feel better, or does it make you feel angrier inside? How can we make this easier for you?"

Focus on how he feels, and how he wants to feel. These kids tend to learn to detach from their feelings because they can be so overwhelming. I'm thinking that deep down (maybe not so deep down!) he is very angry, and is trying to make his anger (in his mind) to be due to your always saying the opposite of what HE says! A lot of kids (including TTs) do this; they pick a fight with their parents in order to have the perfect excuse to flounce off and sulk, perhaps because they just broke up with their best friend and want to share the misery.

But avoid, at least for a while, buying into the to and fro. it's like a tug of war game - when you pull on your end of the rope and he pulls on his, the game is on. But if you let go the rope, he falls over backwards. Or is left standing there holding one end of a rope, and feeling a bit foolish.

Let is know how you get on with this, or if you have already tried it to no avail.

And it's good to see you on the surface at last! Welcome!



New Member

Sounds like he's perseverating on opposites. Honestly, ALL my kids did this to some degree. I think it's a phase in the development of language. In your son's case, it seems like he knows what he means to say, but it comes out opposite, so he continues to argue with you because he's thinking the same as you, but you are not hearing it as such.

It's also possible that he was annoyed with ST and was using this as a way to express that annoyance. My son's ST was beyond frustrated because he knew the words, she knew he knew them, and since they both knew he knew them, he didn't feel like he needed to say them. He'd always give this look that explained it all. They'd complain to me that he wasn't being cooperative. I'd laugh at them because they were the ones insisting that there was something wrong with his and his language - I thought he was PERFECT.

Anyway, Since DD2 is my youngest, she's my most recent memory. Her favorite food was mac&cheese. One day I told her that's what we were having for dinner, and she said she didn't want it. ??????? Really? I asked and confirmed several times that she "Does NOT want mac&cheese" When I served her up something else, she went into a screaming fit. She was 4, and Oh, that's right, DD1 and son had done this as well. I think it's a phase. I'd start ignoring the words coming out when I knew for sure what my child meant. Not so easy when you really don't know and want their input.

DS that is 4 y/o given Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnoses at 2, but they are now saying they believe he maybe ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), ODD, but won't diagnose so young.
GOOD! Simply because ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), ODD can all be SYMPTOMS of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). My son has displayed all of those traits ant one point or another, but they fall within the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnosis for him - nothing off the charts. If any one of those gets really intense and intrusive, then it does merit a secondary diagnosis.


Welcome to our little corner of the world. I totally, whole-heartedly agree with every word Marg said. She always has a way of putting what I'M thinking into better words than I could ever do. If the psychiatrist insist on chaning the diagnosis then I would find another psychiatrist. By the way, what kind of doctor diagnosis'd your son? I hope it wasn't just a pediatrician. If it was, I would find a Child Psychiatrist soon.

Your son has to be very smart to have the ability to come up with the opposites. That is very creative. Marg's suggestion is a great one. It just might work. (*crossing fingers*)


Active Member
My son used to do that, and it was exhausting. Hugs. I agree with Marg, try that. and as for the diagnosis's? I think many of our kids were given an alphabet soup at one point, I have found you do what works for you. As one psychiatrist put it, diagnosis's are for insurance companies. Interventions are what matter.


Well-Known Member
I think he is still very Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). I don't believe he is either denying reality or trying to drive you crazy. I believe that he is being quirky and playing with his late-acquired word skills in a rather clever way and I agree he sounds smart. But I also think he sounds like he is on the autism spectrum. Maybe you need a second opinion.

My son learned speech in ST too. He is on the spectrum.


Well-Known Member
As one psychiatrist put it, diagnosis's are for insurance companies
I'd add... and schools.
Anything where money is involved, dxes are required!

Marg - yes, ST = speech therapy. (ST, Occupational Therapist (OT), PT... etc.)


Every dog has his day....
Hi All! and thank you for your help! Marg, especially. :) I didn't want you to think I did a post and run, lol. I'm sure you understand that I find little time to get on teh computer.
My son was diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist.
I want to come back and write a detailed reply, I just can't now. Hectic here at home! talk soon


Active Member
No worries, Kimmie. We're all busy people, we understand.

Don't get too hung up on the label here, even the best specialist needs to consider upgrading or modifying a diagnosis as the child gets older. Even the best can get it wrong, or miss something. Also be wary of a tendency from some specialists to label what they see, rather than put all the puzzle pieces together.
Think of a jigsaw puzzle. There's a piece of tree over here, I can see a bottom edge piece which has a fragment of a cow. On the side (another edge piece) is a piece of fence. Lots of blue sky with a few white bits in them - clouds in s summery sky. Over time we get more puzzle pieces but already we can say - this picture is rural, a farmer's field on a fine summer's day. But a lot of specialists will not take go out on that limb, they will instead merely label the puzzle pieces, as an archaeologist would carefully lay out various treasures unearthed from a dig.



Just wanted to drop in and say welcome aboard. The only thing I can think to add to what's already been said is to also check for an audio processing disorder. There's some recommended book threads running around, you might wish to go through those and find some that you think might be helpful and inquire if your library has them.


Well-Known Member
At his age, I'd be more leaning toward Marg's line of thought.

Ours went back to this stage later - grade 2 or 3.
We didn't know at the time - but given all the various issues he was(is) dealing with, he couldn't handle ANYTHING anymore, so one of his coping strategies was to be negative about everything... it was a way of pushing back, of trying to gain some small sliver of control over something in his life - because the rest of it was unbelievably off-the-rails.


New Member
Hi, I'm new to this forum: single mom of an almost 7yo son diagnosed as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified when he was 4 but showing ODD behaviors for the last couple of years (which have been rough, including our moving out and my separating from his dad, another couple of moves because my ex refuses to let me have the family home, my ex's discovering -- after 20 years of making me miserable and about 10 of raging and verbally abusing me -- that he shouldn't have gotten married in the first place because he's gay, and moving his boyfriend in with him. A whole lot of change for a rigid Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified kid). One of the things my son does is to be a "contrarian" -- he says things are the opposite of what they are, changes a word I say to a nonsense word (lately, he asks, "What does [nonsense word made from mangled version of my word] mean?"), similar behavior to your boy. Most of the time I have treated it as a game and it has not been an issue. One coping mechanism he has developed will get him very angry at times though if you don't play along with it (which I try not to do, while also not telling him it is wrong): he has developed "alternate personas" that allow him to distance himself from the behaviors that worry him, especially frustration-triggered acting out behaviors that got him into a lot of trouble in kindergarten last year (he's changing schools for first grade to a school with emotional/behavioral support as well as the autism support he had last year). Thursday through Sunday he is not Nick, he is "Duckmin the LED Manager." He has a "uniform" consisting of a shirt with a diagram of an LED bulb on it, shorts he considers matching and even underwear that matches (the consistent pair he wears over the pair for the day worn next to his body). He can get pretty angry if you call him Nick and then insist that he IS Nick, though he doesn't consistently get angry. Lately we have settled on Nicholas, because he said that Duckmin is his middle name, he is Nicholas Duckmin, but not Nick. All of this is a long way around to say the behaviors you describe don't sound unrelated to the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) issues. I agree with the other posters that it is a coping mechanism, a way to try to exercise control when for whatever reason they are feeling overwhelmed by what they can't control. I know it can be very unsettling, though -- we had a psychiatrist check Nick out to make sure he didn't truly believe he WAS the alternate persona(s). He is in therapy to help him learn to handle his challenges, and as he progresses, he should stop needing the alternates. In the meantime, it just takes patience (sometimes a LOT of patience).

Carol A.


Active Member
Hi Carol. Welcome. You sound like you've been through the wringer and then some! It would be good to get to know you more in your own thread.

Your description of your son's behaviour is just one more example of how kids on the spectrum CAN have good imaginations and creativity.

With the nonsense words - perhaps this worked for us because difficult child 3 was hyperlexic and therefore words and numbers were important to him, but even when he was very young (and still struggling with language delays) we used the dictionary to study the origin of words. We encouraged him to look up words and glean the relevant information from the dictionary to work out the etymology. That could be a way of helping your son over this. I'm wondering if he had any language delay - finding a nonsense word sounds like an attempt at injecting some fluency when you otherwise are having problems finding the right word. What can work is helping him rehearse a more comprehensible phrase that he could have used instead. But don't push too hard on this, it may simply be a matter of giving him time.

Alternatively you could make a game of trying to work out what the meaning COULD be, for the nonsense word he makes up. Again, use etymology to assist, but also make it clear that this is also an exercise in imagination and creativity. Our Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids are capable of this but do need a lot of help and practice in this skill.

An example - Douglas Adams, I think it was, wrote "The Meaning of Liff" where British place names were given alternative meanings."Didcott", for example, was claimed to be the little piece of cardboard created when a bus conductor hole-punches your ticket. And "Spittle of Glenshiegh" [sp?] was claimed to be the little puddles found on the castle floor the morning after a bagpipe players convention. Or similar. So you can have fun with this. And never forget, many words in common usage today were actually invented by Shakespeare. "Bubble" is just one example.



Well-Known Member
Carol -

First - welcome.
Second - ditto Marg's comments... there are advantages to starting a new thread, but...

Until you get a new thread started...
This caught my eye...
"What does [nonsense word made from mangled version of my word] mean?"),
Has he ever been tested for auditory processing issues?
These kinds of problems can really mess up their ability to process verbal input (or to process it in the presence of background noise, a separate issue).
Maybe he really does hear the word you say, as though you said it the way he gave it back to you?
And if it only happens some of the time... is there any pattern? (esp. think in terms of things like distraction and/or background noise).
This might be one more factor... a co-morbid problem that can really complicate the situation.


Well-Known Member
Kimmie, I agree with-Keista--perseverating on opposites.
I would try hard to diffuse this with-humor. "You're right, there's no one there, just some clothing on some invisible thing like a human form. I wonder if the food goes all the way through to the floor when it eats, like in Casper the Friendly Ghost?"
I also think this sounds very much like Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and that ODD may be what the dr "Sees" but since your child is still so young, it could be perserverance instead of outright ODD.

Welcome, Carol. Sheesh, what a mess! I'll look for the new thread for you.


New Member
totally agree with the others.... I would highly resist saying ODD on a child of this age or most kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). What you are describing sounds very Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), smile.


Every dog has his day....
I just wanted to add that since I posted this, the behavoir has remained. Its so part of him that we over look it for the most part. If I ask him to get his shoes, he'll say "No", while he's doing what's asked. He saying the opposite of most things, so much that I think it might be a compulsion? He still communicated effectively, and when ignored the opposites, rarely are a problem, other than a bit irritating. It seems the opposites are only in response to someone talking to him. I don't know if I put this in the OP but he used to argue with toys, the tv, or "pick" opposite fights. That has fizzled out, so I guess I can say that the over all behavoir has improve! :)


New Member
This is EXACTLY what my son does.... so really the psychiatric hospital people said it is not that they are really oppositional in terms of ODD kinds of kids... they automatically go to the negative, but it can for some be a way to buy time to process to make sure it is what they really want to do... My son gets himself into not getting fun things this way... After his brain catches up to what is really being said, he will often realize he made the wrong answer! I always warn staff, teachers, etc to not react to every single refusal or no etc. I tell them to wait and see if he is really NOT doing what we are asking.

There are tons more examples. This summer if he was told to get out of our pool for a time to relax/chill out he would yell NO as he was swimming to the ladder and climbed out and took his break. LOL...........

MY girl friend who has a son who just graduated (Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)) and I were just talking about this over lunch a week ago. Also why they seem to gravitate toward the negative things in news stories about people who die etc. She too has students who are like that in her Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) class. It is interesting how kids are so different but we find some commonalities like that.
Hi Kimmie -I go through something similiar ALL the time with my difficult child and it is exhausting and very very frustrating. He is 10 and has been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and ODD. EXTREMELY argumentative. Whenever we tell him something that he doesn't want to hear, he says some version of "No it's not". If we tell him he can't play with someone because they're not home and that we are positive of this because we saw them leave, he says "No" or "No they didn't". This basically goes on all day. Sometimes i think it is a compulsion because he has told me before that he feels like he has to say something, sometimes I think it's all he knows and its become a habit, and sometimes I think it's because he is just so argumentative. At this point, we just say something like "OK" and walk away. Works most of the time but it definitely takes its toll on everybody. Another strange thing he does is if one of his few remaining friends is over and he wants them to stay for dinner but they tell him THEY don't want to, he basically skips right over that part and continues to ask if they can call their parents to ask if it's You're NOT alone.