A lot of parents recognise that their PDA kids have a lot of anxiety, usually triggered by demands which can cause avoidance and panic attacks. In order to help their children they will remove demands in order to make it easier to cope. This is helpful for the PDA child as they can only handle so much anxiety and stress before it all becomes too much and they meltdown/shutdown. So removing demands is a good way to help the PDA kid manage and by giving them more demands when their stress levels are low helps them realise that they can manage sometimes, it helps to build up their coping abilities and self confidence.
Whilst all this is great, some parents create a ‘demand free’ environment and are then surprised that it doesn’t completely remove all anxiety and avoidance behaviour. This is because, for PDA people, there’s no such thing as no demands. A demand free environment doesn’t exist.
The thing is, most non-PDA people think a demand is something that is asked of them or that they have to do, usually this is something unpleasant that they don’t want to do. For PDA people however, everything is a demand. Whether it’s something that someone else has asked of them or whether it’s something they think is expected without any outside inference. Whether it’s something unpleasant or something pleasant that they’d love. Whether it’s something truly difficult such as exams or something simple such as standing up. Even being expected not to do something is a demand. The way we do things are demands. Even things that are essential and come naturally to everyone are demands, like breathing and eating. Everything, even things you’d never consider in a million years are demands to a PDA person. It’s just the way our brains work.
So for us a demand free existence doesn’t exist. We’d have to be dead and even that seems like a demand to me right now. However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t help your PDA child. It’s impossible to remove every demand but removing or reducing the most demanding of demands is helpful. We need to learn how to cope with the anxiety of demands. We need to learn our own coping strategies and these cannot always be taught (even if they aren’t seen as demands, there are some things we can only learn by ourselves). Like I said, we can’t remove all demands so we have to learn to manage them, but there’s no reason to jump in at the deep end. We can build up demands slowly and master techniques to help as we go. A bit like learning to drive or walk. Then hopefully, one day we’ll be able to manage most everyday demands without having a panic attack.
I find it amazing and brilliant that so many parents will go to great lengths to reduce their child’s struggles, even at the expense of their own health. There are some excellent parents out there and hopefully their commitment will pay off. Life isn’t easy for anyone, some may have it worse than others but as long as we can all help each other in some way then we will all benefit. And who wouldn’t want to be a part of that 🙂