What is PDA – a parent’s interpretation

PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) is a subtype of the autism spectrum. Its driving force is an anxiety driven compulsion to be in control and is characterised by refusing or avoiding demands. These can range from obvious external demands such as brushing teeth or getting dressed to a minefield of internal demands – that inner voice telling us what we should be doing or saying. It’s essential to understand that the ‘shut-down’ or refusal to give in to a demand extends to demands that the person with PDA really wants to do. For example; ‘I really want to go to school, because I want to see my friends but I can’t!

So when you’re living in a state of constant hyper vigilance and plying all your energy into coping with the onslaught of demands, you end up shaking the proverbial coca cola bottle until there’s no where else for the pressure to go and the lid explodes….cue a meltdown.

Meltdowns are often extremely violent in nature and terrifying for the person with PDA living through it. It’s best to view them as an epileptic fit; there’s nothing you can do to stop the explosion but you can help by remaining calm, keeping them safe and refraining  from any form of admonishment.

I do not know nearly enough about PDA. I am just a rookie, and just a mum. What I would give to be inside my son’s head so I can better understand his challenges……I suspect I would be terrified. All that aside, they’re simply a bunch of traits and, in no way, define the person. My son is smart, kind, incredibly funny and charismatic and with some help to learn self awareness and a unique set of coping mechanisms, I have no doubt he will fly.

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