Parenting a PDA child can be quite difficult as they require a parenting technique which is rather different from typical parenting and even Autistic parenting. Due to the high levels of anxiety and the constant need for control, PDA children find it intolerable to follow commands, whether these come from an outside source or themselves. Parenting PDA children involves a lot of hard work, flexible thinking, the ability to stay calm even under great stress and a high level of understanding and compassion.
It’s important to remember that many PDA children have lagging skills, skills which aren’t developed enough to deal with circumstances that are expected of their age group. An excellent explanation of lagging skills comes from Ross. W Greene’s ‘The Explosive Child’, a book which can be bought from many online bookstores and is also explained on his website: http://www.livesinthebalance.org/
PDA children also have difficulty understanding and feeling their emotions, which can become a problem when dealing with sudden, extreme bouts of emotion. They often live in the moment and so, when feeling heightened emotions that they don’t quite understand and/or know how to deal with, they can overdramatize events. Coupled with a sometimes literal thinking and black and white way of viewing the world, they might often see things as ‘always’ being ‘bad’. One such example is when a child may be told off for breaking something (whether intentional or not) they may angrily state that ‘I’m always breaking things, I can’t do anything right’. Problems socially may cause PDA children to react, stating ‘Everyone hates me. No one likes me. I don’t fit in anywhere’. These reactions may appear to others as attention seeking and over the top, but to the child they do actually feel this way. They might know logically that these feelings aren’t correct but they are unable to stop feeling them. Knowing that their feelings aren’t right but not being able to control their outbursts can make the PDA child feel even worse as they wish they could stop, they just don’t have the ability to separate their logical mind from their emotional body. Most children will feel terrible afterwards and may apologise. They may also try to avoid situations that caused the outburst in order to avoid the same thing happening again.
PDA children feel a need for control in order to reduce their anxiety. They think that if they can control everything and everyone in their environment then they won’t feel anxiety from unexpected events. However, this level of control, whilst appearing to reduce anxiety, can actually increase anxiety felt when something unexpected does occur. Parenting techniques include framing demands so as to give the child the appearance of control while the parent actually maintains control and the demand is met.
Due to the way their brains being wired, PDA children may not understand what people say. Things like sarcasm, play on words, tone of voice and body language can all be misunderstood. Some PDA children believe that if someone’s tone of voice is anything other than neutral then that person is angry at them. This can be confusing and frustrating for both parties involved. PDA children usually understand written instruction better than verbal instruction and many families use visual guides to help their children understand what is required of them. When giving verbal instructions it helps to keep to simple sentences and only give one prompt at a time.
The next post, More tips for parenting your PDA child, is available to read here.