The reality of PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

Every Saturday she wakes up in a terrible mood. She is rude to her mum, nasty to her brother and snaps at anything they say to her. 

All day, when her mum asks her what’s wrong she tells her she doesn’t want to go to her Dads house, she hates her Dads house, she hates going for walks and she hates her dog. She hates cooking and she has to cook, she hates doing chores that her Dad makes her do. She doesn’t want to have to talk to her brother and she hates her mum for making her go every week. She is the worst mum ever.

Her mum spent the whole day yesterday trying to remind her daughter that she likes her Dad, that she loves her dog and that cooking is her favourite activity so her Dad is probably being nice telling her to cook.  She was knocked back at every sentence.

Her mum knows however that she doesn’t hate those things. She doesn’t dislike going to her Dads house. She just gets overwhelmingly anxious at the thought of all those demands and the fact she is out of control and has no choice about going or what she does when she gets there.

All day she worries about having to go and having to do things and having to mask when she gets there, and this comes out in grumpiness, meanness and shouting. It also means that her mum struggles to do anything at all with her kids on a Saturday.

She tried to avoid the demand of going yesterday by spending the day saying, quite strongly, that she wasn’t going. She shouted, kicked, slammed doors and cried about how much she hates it and doesn’t want to go. She tried hating her mum because she was making her go. She tried making her brother the reason she couldn’t go. She tried this all day.

Then at five O’clock her mum had a breakthrough. She came up with a very risky tactic and she gave her the choice. She said “you can stay here if you like” She told her that on Sunday she would just be food shopping and she was more than welcome to come.

She then immediately calmed down. She went from trying to hit everything in sight to lying in her mums lap with tears streaming down her face. She started to say that maybe she could stay at home for the night and go to her Dads in the morning instead. Her mum knew for sure at this point that she wanted to go and that she had calmed down because her mum took away the demand of going by telling her she could stay. She then tried to take control of the situation by changing the plan.

Her mum explained to her then, that her Dad really wanted to see her as he hadn’t seen her for two weeks and that he was making her some dinner so it might make him a bit sad if she decided not to go for the night. She still offered her the choice but told her she wouldn’t be having much for her dinner and her Dads might be better. She still had the choice so the demand was lessened but she also knew she should choose to go so there was more demand. She had accepted she should go and dealt with this new demand by changing her avoidance tactics.

By this time her Dad was waiting outside in the car, her brother had already gone and she was demand avoiding to the extreme. She needed to find socks, she needed to de-fluff the socks before she took ten minutes to put them on. She needed to brush her teeth, pack another bag, find a moisturiser, put on her shoes and get her mum to check the size of her shoes. It wasn’t until her brother distracted her by texting to tell her that her Dad had a new car and did she want to go and see it,  that she actually managed to leave.

Again, he had put the control back in her hands and taken away the demand. It changed from having to go to her Dads, to she could go and see her Dad’s new car if she wanted to. She read the text and happily declared that she was going now and that she loved her mum.

Her mum text her an hour later to check she was alright and she replied that she was fine. Her mum knows for a fact she will come home today, as she normally does, saying she had a good time.

This is PDA and this is their Saturday every week!

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Published by Autism Kids on Tour - Autism without limits

I have two kids and love to show them the world. We dont let autism limit us in our adventures! I write about our adventures and include tips on how suitable activities were for children with autism. I also write more autism specific posts.

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