*PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) is a presentation of autism, please click the link for more information about PDA from the PDA society website: What is PDA?*
I don’t know of other blogger mums get this but I struggle all the time with ‘keeping it real’ vs ‘protecting my son and not ‘over sharing’. I have my sons permission to blog about him and what happened around school and about how things have changed but he doesn’t read what I write because, well he is not really that interested. We talk about it sometimes but he has never read a blog post, he trusts me to write about him in a respectful way and sometimes that trust weighs heavily on my shoulders.
You see I want parents to identify with the fact that times were tough and, sometimes still are, so that when I say things have changed they can relate and have hope and direction for things to change too. I don’t mean change my child or the fact he is autistic but just to change the way I approach things so that he could be the boy I knew he really was, the young man he shows me now.
When my son was little he had eczema over his whole body, he screamed all the time, I rarely got more than a couple of hours sleep. The doctors tried various things, creams and wraps and steroids, they even offered me some experimental treatment that involved lazering him! I remember coming back from the doctors one day with tubs of ointment and a whole bag of bandages and instructions to wrap my 3 month old baby from head to toe in them and I got to my front door and thought no I know there is more to this, this is ridiculous and I turned right back round again and back to the doctor and demanded to see a specialist.
While waiting for the appointment I started to introduce my son to solids and watched in horror when, after having yogurt a burning rash spread across his body in front of my eyes, I knew then it was a dairy allergy. He had been getting trace amounts of dairy from me as I was breast feeding.
He was eventually tested and was allergic to milk proteins and a whole list of other things, by stopping breast feeding and putting him on an allergy free milk and controlling his diet the reactions began to clear up and a completely different child was revealed. He was happy and singing and not clinging onto me screaming 24/7. My son was not a ‘bad baby’ he was a suffering baby, I was not a bad mother, I was a mother following the recommendations for a baby ‘breast is best’ except it wasn’t best for him as it turned out.
It was much the same with him when he started showing signs of PDA (although I didn’t know that’s what it was at first). I initially followed classic parenting strategies and later, when I saw autistic traits, recommend strategies for an autistic child and yet something was not clicking, my child was constantly in emotional pain and his true nature was being mask by the constant state of fight, flight or freeze he was in. I knew there was more to all of this but I didn’t know what. However when I found out about PDA, I then implemented a low demand approach and started Home education which allowed his true nature beneath the behaviour to be revealed again. This beautiful loving boy emerged from under the layers of trauma, anxiety and self protection, a boy I always knew was there but I hadn’t known how to reach him.
As with the eczema it was no ones fault. I was doing what I had been told was right and he was just reacting to it because of his genetic make up which was slightly different from the average. In one I had to avoid dairy and his other triggers and in the other case I had to avoid presenting life to him as a series of demands. It really is that simple. I don’t hate eczema or think my son was a horrible baby, I don’t hate autism or think my son is a bad child in both cases he was a child in pain because what was being provided wasn’t right for him, instead of nourishing him, it hurt him. It was me that needed to change what I was offering in order for him to blossom and heal.
Understanding your child’s needs, following your parental instincts even when they are leading you into the unknown and believing your child wants to be happy, wants to thrive and realising what they need most of all your unconditional love is always the very best we can do for our children.
For more on the low demand approach I used click HERE