Its a little complicated in our house – that is until we implemented the 4 Absolute Rules.
I recently attended a course run by the most amazing lady, Karen Whichello of Side by Side Coaching. It was a course about PDA. I learnt so much during the day but, as with everything, I couldn’t take it all in. I will be going back to fill the gaps…
Anyway, during the day, many techniques for dealing with PDA were discussed but, the one thing that stuck in my mind, above all else, were the Absolute Rules.
Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), is all about an anxiety driven need to be in control to such an extent that it becomes pathological. It is classified as a profile within the Autistic Spectrum and my son has the diagnosis of ASD with Demand Avoidance Traits. It is a relatively new recognised profile within the Autism Spectrum and, a diagnosis is very much dependent on the area in which you live. A great source of information can be found on the PDA Society Website. This site is like a home from home for me!
What is the purpose of The Absolute Rules?
To minimise demands!
A child with PDA needs to have as much control as possible and, to some people, it may appear that our son runs the house but, to the knowledgeable observer, this is not the case. We give our son choices but, the important factor here is that we are in control of those choices.
Why just 4 Absolute Rules?
With PDA you need to keep demands to the absolute minimum. By doing this, when a demand has to be made, it is much more likely to be accepted.
We sat down and discussed all the rules that were currently in place. Then, we went back over them to decide which ones could be negotiable and which ones absolutely were not!
Here’s what we came up with:
1. Mobile phones and gadgets are not to be charged in bed.
This is a rule for safety. I am absolutely obsessed with the dangers that this involves and it is therefore non-negotiable.
2. We will not hurt others.
Violence is not tolerated in our house and therefore is non-negotiable.
3. We will not lie.
For relationships to work, there must be trust, therefore, telling the truth is non-negotiable.
4. We will not take things without asking.
Taking something that belongs to someone else, without permission, causes so much stress that we all agreed that this was non-negotiable.
These rules relate to everyone within the home so that no one person is singled out and, so far, it works really well.
Weekly wall planner
We have now taken the non-negotiable aspect one step further.
Until I discovered PDA, we had a wall planner that looked like this.
Now, if you are dealing with Autism, this is a fantastic method to provide predictability and routine and reduce stress.
It clearly shows who is doing what and when and we found the colour coding to be very helpful. It also pandered to my love of post-its but that’s another story (OCD rules!)
We religiously filled this in each week, updating it as necessary. Imagine our surprise as it started to cause meltdowns. We were at a loss.
Enter the discovery of PDA. Everything on this planner was a demand! No wonder it wasn’t working for our son. It worked for my OCD personality and for my ADHD husband (to a certain extent) but it did not work for our son, the person that it was designed to help!
What to do?
People with PDA still need routine for their Autistic side but the PDA side needs to be in control of the what, when and how.
I didn’t want to get rid of my wall planner as it has a definite place in my life and helped me to stay organised and not forget things – missed appointments…..oops!
So, we needed a compromise. When you start thinking outside of the box, this actually wasn’t that difficult. The brief for the planner was that it needed to offer routine, non-negotiables and choices. We involved our son in the planning so that he felt in control and included in the decision making.
This is what we came up with:
It is still a work in progress but let me explain what we have so far:
Black denotes the non-negotiables ie appointments etc, things that have to happen.
Blue (colour decided by our son) denotes the things that can be negotiated. For example, if both myself and my husband are home, either one of us can take our daughter to school. Obviously the time for the school run in non-negotiable but the person that does it is negotiable. This way our son has some input into the arrangements for the day. He can then also choose whether he goes on the school run too!
Is it perfect? Absolutely not. What it does do, though, is reduce meltdowns and panic attacks caused by excessive demands and gives us a basis to work from and adapt as necessary.
What do you do to manage the conflict between ASD and PDA? Leave a comment at the bottom of this post to let me know as I’m always looking for new ideas!
Until next time, stay strong.
PS I’m really please with the new layout of my blog. I’m still adjusting but would love your feedback. Please leave comments below.