As my learning curve continues it is getting less steep, less messy and less painful because I have learnt from experience to listen to my child first, my gut second, and those who have experienced PDA first-hand third. And the professionals? Well the jury is still out on that one! However looking back at all the bumps along the way I know I have made many mistakes and gathered some regrets so I thought it might be helpful to share them.
My 10 Big Regrets
1. Allowing my concerns to be brushed over.
I first brought up the possibility of autism when my son went to nursery at 22 months, then again when he started school, then when he changed schools for the first time at 5. I was always told the same thing ‘He is emotional and socially immature, but he is fine, we see no problems, you are worrying too much because of your family and work history.’ I just accepted they knew what they were talking about, but they did not.
2. Following parenting tips
Whether recommended by professionals, other parents, books and TV shows I tried them all and not because they worked but because they were the ‘right’ way to parent.
3. Having a zero tolerance strategy for violence towards me.
You may think this is fair enough but by punishing my child for something he had no control over and was caused by anxiety and my failure to create the right environment for him to thrive I was destroying trust and worse, damaging my sons mental health and leaving him isolated. Later I learnt to remove myself from the situation until he calmed down and then hug him if he wanted it and only much later (sometimes as late as the next day) talk to him about it and the possible reasons behind it.
4. Allowing myself to get into a victim mentality.
– Feeling poor me and letting my own mental health slide only worsened the situation. It built resentment, made me feel stressed and angry and powerless. I resolved this situation by having counselling which gave me the strength and confidence to take back control. Realising my child wasn’t doing this to hurt me but because he was hurting was my biggest mental breakthrough.
5. Listening to my child but then dismissing his wishes as impossible to implement
– Telling him you can’t expect people to..(accommodate you), I know you don’t like (being left with anyone) but I have to work and so on. All things are possible to change if you have the desire to, what I meant was I don’t want my life to change too much so I will try to make things bearable for you as they are instead of putting you first and doing what you want/need.
6. Physically forcing my son to go to school because I felt pressured to.
– This is a huge one and the one I have most problems justifying to myself. The school knew I carried or manhandled my son downstairs in the mornings, in fact it was at their insistence that I ‘got him in by whatever means necessary’. I felt wrong about it but I did it, you should never go against your instinct of what feels wrong with your child. I have appologised to my son since for doing this.
7. Accepting that it was unreasonable of me to expect the school to change ‘that much’ just to accommodate my son’
– I was often told this or that ‘what about the 30 other kids or we just don’t have the resources. I tried to see things from the schools point of view, I should not of. He had/has a right to these services under reasonable adjustments.
8.Not fighting harder for a specific PDA diagnoses
– I wish I had fought for the PDA on the diagnoses as it has caused so many problems not having it however it is not officially recognised in my area and I had already been waiting 5 years for any diagnoses by the time I got one for ASD.
9. Failing to recognise what a demand looks like
– After diagnoses and doing a course with the PDA society I implemented what I thought was zero demand strategy as my son’s mental health by this time was so low. However just thinking ‘well he has to do his 2 hours interventions’, ‘he needs to change his clothes’, ‘I must make him eat’,’ I will just ask him this….’ These are all demands. I realised that after 3 months and moved to as near as I possibly could to totally zero demands, he began to recover almost immediately and I never reinstated demands, he gradually reintroduced them for himself and now does most things expected of a 12-year-old boy.