Many parents of autistic children worry for their future especially those who’s child, like mine, presents with a PDA (pathological demand avoidant) profile. I am often asked;
‘But how will your son function as an adult in the real world’?
To me the best way I can prepare my son for the future is to trust him, now today, in the moment. Trust him to want to learn, to want to do things and get the most out of life. Only when you trust a child can they learn to trust themselves, self belief is the basis for a firm foundation for any adult. Because PDA is anxiety based this is even more important to a PDA child.
‘But what if my child will not engage?’
This is a question I am asked many times. What I do at these times is support my child to feel safe, loved and wanted as he is here today and not based on what he is or is not doing. I let him know by my actions that I believe in him, that I have not written him off or feel if I do not pressure him he will not ever want to do things. He has never failed to respond to that belief by making good choices and engaging again when he is ready so I make sure I am available and responsive for when he is.
At one time children were largely seen as small adults and worked to support their families, took responsibility for their siblings and had to understand complexed adult situations. I am not saying that was a good thing but I am saying the fact they did those things way back then shows they have the capability to do so, that given the freedom to do so they will take responsibility even when this is way beyond their years.
By assuming a child can not make good choices when given the environment and support we are underestimating a child’s ability to (in the words of Dr Ross Greene) ‘do well if they can.’
The way the current education system is set up and the attitude to children by society assumes children must be taught rather than supported to learn, punished rather than supported to understand how to change approaches and told rather than listened to. These things present a huge barrier to those children who think differently, experience sensory things more intensely and learn things in their own unique way and at their own pace.
Once you are an adult you have far more autonomy over your surroundings, far more choice over your work, your home and your contacts, this can be of huge benefit to those, such as many autistic people, who have a need to do things in a less conventional way. Such adults often take the road less travelled with amazing results. It is important to realise too that not all autistic people reach great heights (or even wish to) any more than all neurotypical people do, that there are many barriers to face and obstacles to over come for us all and none of us can know what the future holds..
One thing is certain though, the more you are believed in, the more you believe in yourself, the more you believe in yourself the more confidence you will have to take the opportunities that are offered to you. This goes for children as well as adults.
If your child is autistic and or has a PDA profile they may hear and sense many doubts about their ability from people they come into contact with both in and outside of the home and I feel it is my job as a parent, to insure that I do not perpetuate this and give my child a strong enough sense of self to not be brought down by this, it is also why I complain to change these attitudes through my blogs and social media.
I feel that by supporting my child to learn in his own way, to make his own choices and be, to a large extent, the master of his own destiny it not only supports him in a PDA friendly way now, but allows him to practice those skills for use as an adult. It is a far more ‘real world’ preparation for him than learning to sit at a desk and follow orders and never being given the chance to make his own choices or think for himself.
Another of the things I hear regularly is;
How will he survive if he can’t even go to the supermarkets/crowded places/tidy up after himself?’
Well the thing about PDA’s demand avoidance can be a great motivator to seek solutions. My son wants to earn well because he sees that as his route to freedom, to the life he wants and needs so is motivated to earn, now and in the future, he has already saved the money for his first car because he can not cope with public transport. He realises money will hire him a cleaner, it will buy him the technology to buy him his shopping without the need for a supermarket shop and give him social contacts that he can have when he doesn’t feel like socialising face to face and may create work opportunities that mean he never has to sit in an office environment.
Having a secure, supportive environment where you feel valued, respected, and trusted as the person you are as a child has long been known by phycologists to set them up to be a happy and successful (and by successful I mean living the life that’s right for you not necessarily becoming a brain surgeon or rocket scientist) adult.