My daughter’s PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

Emma is not diagnosed and if we can avoid it, we will avoid it. She would not get a diagnosis now anyway. She is 4 years old and is one of the two biggest trouble makers in her kindergarten, but in many ways she seems so normal and non-autistic that her behavior can easily be interpreted as just rude or stubborn. And maybe it turns out that her brain is nevertheless neurotypical and her behavior just looks very much like me.

But my parents also think she behaves very much like I did at her age. Except she’s somewhat worse. I could do the same things and were striking the same way, and I have got the autism diagnosis.

Emma can easily keep eye contact especially when she wants something or is happy and relaxed. She can read other people’s body language and mimics, but she does not know what to do with this information. She is very social and would prefer to play with other children all the time. But the only kind of play she can figure out is that she decides everything and the others follow. Fortunately, she is pretty clever and invents new games all the time and changes existing games to retain control, and there are still a lot of children who want to play with her for a while.

When we have to do something, she refuses almost always. I’ve become so good at drawings schemes and structures, but she throws with it, or she takes a pen and changes it, and constantly tries to get in control.

If she does not succeed, she panics and yells at me, hits me, kicks me, makes a mess and does everything in her power to force me to do what she wants me to do. When she wants to watch cartoons on her tablet for hours or she wants biscuits or ice cream or whatever she can become really violent. And she will be so sad and sorry afterwards, because she does not want me to be sad.

Then again she turns into a baby or a little cat or dog when we need to do something. When she has to put on clothes she is often a baby and can only lie on her back while I put her clothes on. On the stairs she is a kitten and must be carried up and down, and when we are about to go out for walk, her legs are broken. Then when I’m convinced that she is clearly and obviously autistic and has PDA, I’ll take a break with all those demands and we’ll do it as a game and it’s me who wants to brush my teeth first and I try to get out of the door first and then I’m a horse for her to ride on and we get around to all the things that need to be done, but it costs me 100% more energy. And then it happens that she suddenly can do extraordinary things on her own. Like, without me asking for it, she puts her shoes at their place, hangs her jacket on the hanger and asks if she can help me to make dinner!

Then I think again, I am the crazy one and maybe she’s just a normal 4-year-old. For what do I know about 4-year-olds. And it does not look like autism or PDA or anything but like a sweet and very normal, 4-year-old lovely girl.

And then after a while it changes all again, and I get a fist in my stomach because I gave her just half a cookie instead of a whole one.

Fortunately, I’m quite familiar with how she feels inside. I recognize very much of myself in her, and I can quite intuitively find strategies. At least as long as my emotional system does not take over and tells me that it is ME who decides. Because I also can’t bear not to have control.

And there the blog is a great tool to take notes, to keep focus, to read when things go wrong because I still remember that it went so well two weeks ago, but I no longer remember what I did back then.

I also wrote something about my own PDA profile.

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