Riko’s Theory

I just realised that unless I write it out, people might not know where this particular theory comes from. As you probably know, there’s no evidence that PDA, as a real thing and not just a description of traits, exists. With Autism there are some genes that have been discovered which shows physical evidence that Autism ‘is a thing’, and there have been many studies and much research into Autism itself. But as PDA is still relativly new and there is little research, the research there is being behavioural studies, it can be difficult to show emphirical evidence that PDA is a very real difference.

As such, this means all the knowledge we have on PDA and what causes it are based on visible behaviours and educated guesses into the possible causes. This is mostly from an outside looking in approach, and while valid, is still far from the empirical proof we need.

What causes PDA? What exactly is it? How do we know?

Newson believed that PDA is an anxiety based disorder, seperate from Autism. We later discovered that PDAers are indeed Autistic and the belief now is that PDA is an anxiety led need for control that only exists in some Autistics.

I’ve already covered why I think this doesn’t fit the full picture in Is anxiety at the root of PDA? and Why anxiety isn’t the cause of demand avoidance (all links open in new tabs). I have a theory as to the cause of PDA, but like all theories it stays a theory until it’s either proved or disproved.

Newson had her theory that the kids she was seeing were different to any others, and she proved this in her research by studying and comparing children and their behaviours. For my theory it would take brain scans and/or DNA studies to prove (preferably both). However, research, especially ones involving expensive medical equipment, don’t come easily and there aren’t many researchers interested in diving into the brains of PDAers to uncover their secrets. I’m not even sure if anyone would be interested in perusing my line of theory above that of tracking behaviour in PDAers. However I live in hope someone will persue it while I’m still alive.

To ensure that, if someone does eventually prove my theory, that people know it was me who originally came up with it (yes I do want credit, I’m allowed to be selfish on occasion 😉) I’m writing the theory here in this blog.

Also, credit to me for coming up with the term ‘PDAers’ (Copyright © 2016 Riko) as an identify first alternative to ‘person with PDA’ and the term ‘ADA Autistic Demand Avoidance’ (Copyright © 2017 Riko) as a way to distinguish between PDA demand avoidance and Autistic Demand Avoidance (as explained in Autistic Demand Avoidance vs Pathological Demand Avoidance).

Maui “Thank you” “You’re welcome”

Riko’s Theory.

Copyright © 2018 Riko

Riko’s Theory, calling it after myself (big head), is a theory on the cause of Pathological Demand Avoidance, a type of Autism. My theory is that there is some difference in the DNA of Autistic (or some Autistics as there are many different genes responsible for Autism) which causes a difference in the part of the brain responsible for recognising and reacting to danger (the amygdala?). 

This difference causes our brains to interpret our attempted actions as a danger. Every time we try to do something the brain flags it up as a danger and forces us to react as if the action we are about to take is harmful to us, even if that action is to avoid real danger. 

So for example, if I were to think about eating some cereal the brain will flag this as a danger and try to prevent me from eating it. If I were to then decide not to eat the cereal my brain will flag not eating the cereal as a danger and try to force me to eat it.

I believe it may be possible to see this reaction in brain scans. It may also be possible to see evidence of demand avoidance being acted out without the presence of anxiety, although this would be a rare occurrence. 

If research were to be carried out on the DNA of PDAers and non-PDA Autistics I believe we may possibly see a variation which would explain the difference between PDA and non-PDA autistics, even within the same families. 

Of course this is merely a theory at this point and there is the chance my theory is wrong. As, in my opinion, this theory seems to be the most obvious and fully fitting explanation for the difficulties of PDAers and the differences between PDAers and any other type of neurogroup. If I were proved to be wrong then it would mean there is further research to be done to find an explanation that fully fits and explains these issues. I am confident my theory holds some truth and that further research will uncover this, but I’m very much aware of my lack of knowledge in this biological area and so there’s a good chance I could be ‘barking up the wrong tree’. I just hope I live long enough to know either way.

7 thoughts on “Riko’s Theory”

  1. Hey Riko. Another thoughtful piece of writing. Thank you for your continued efforts.
    I thought you might be interested to know that here in New Zealand we have a group at Auckland University researching the genetics of autism.
    I have been corresponding with one of the researchers, and will probably send her some samples.
    This is her email:- j.jacobsen@auckland.ac.nz
    Their group is called minds for minds. Her name is Jesse. A very nice woman who is easy to talk to. If you contact her I would be happy if you said I gave you her contact details.

  2. Really useful thoughts. Thanks. What intrigues me with my granddaughter is her variability – sometimes she will willingly eat/do something and on other occasions she will have a real problem with exactly the same food/action. Any new theory would need to account for this inconsistency – but I fear we are a long way from testing any hypothesis at the moment.

  3. Well I’m happy for you to test my PDA child’s brain against my non PDA autistic son (her brother) 😂 would be interesting to see the difference.

  4. The way that I usually explain my sons world to people is to use the example of a haunted house – you know – the ones where people pay money to get scared silly.
    You go there knowing full well that nothing there will actually hurt you. You may even try to convince yourself to not react to anything – and yet – when you are in a darkened room and something jumps out – your voice , your body and your emotions will all react violently to it and there is nothing you can do about it.
    Those same alarm bells go off in my sons head when a demand is encountered – except he can never leave the haunted house!

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