Radical Unschooling

#100 Days of Home Ed…Day 24

Choices…choices…choices! The world is full of them.

But another of my ‘issues’ with modern control-oriented parenting techniques is that it allows children precious few of them. Virtually everything is decided for them by the parents. They are then informed and just expected to do what the ‘masters’ say like good ‘slaves.’

Two problems come out of this later in life…

  • Rebellion as teens and
  • Adults who lack good decision making skills.

In case you have not guessed it by now, I have not been THAT type of parent since leaving the church twenty years ago. Even my adult children had an extremely liberal parent as teens…if not as children. As a result, I loved their teen years when I became more of a mentor and allowed them their own choices.

You know what? It works too. Out of four grown ones not a single unplanned pregnancy, arrest or major drug issue. All either go to university, have jobs or serve their country. Not too many single moms can brag like that. Easy teen years and responsible adults (honestly TOO responsible! Where is my rebel? Oh well…two more to go, maybe one of them will balk at the strictures of society.)

Another of the techniques espoused by the PDA Society is…

Offer them limited choices – to give them SOME control

This one appears towards the bottom of the list and has little explanation. I am not sure why…BUT I have found it is an important one. Let me explain WHY.

Pathological Demand Avoidance is ALL about control. Its root is resisting demands placed upon you by others. In simplest terms…control. Your child wants…NEEDS…control.

The problem is…

They are not ready for complete control of their lives.

And can become overwhelmed with ALL the choices available to them.

You, the parent, must become like a top-notch Executive Assistant to the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. You must…

  • Anticipate their needs
  • Do fact finding to gather options
  • Present them with the ‘right’ choices
  • Then make their choice happen.

All without them knowing that in truth it is YOU and not them who is in control.

It is not easy. And while I have never worked in a Fortune 500 company, I have been an Executive Assistant…and I have babysat drunk celebrities. It was great training for being PanKwake’s mom.

And this right here is where PDA differs so vastly from other forms of high-functioning autism…and why it is so important that it is recognized in some form or the other. Traditional techniques for dealing with individuals on the autistic spectrum such as the highly popular ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) wants to order and control EVERYTHING. And perhaps for them that is best (but honestly I doubt it).

BUT put your PDA child in a school where the only acceptable way of dealing with the label autistic is ABA…and you are in for TROUBLE…with a capital T. Meltdowns every time. Or perhaps they hold it all in at school, save all that anxiety up…and release it on you the moment they are home. Our PDA kids just do not respond well to this technique…that takes control from them.

Want to see how my method works?

Let’s go to every parent’s nightmare…a toy store!

Once a month when we got her DLA (Disability Living Allowance) I would take PanKwake to buy a special toy…knowing of course that meant more than one.

First of all, I chose the store…a few that I knew were compassionate and understanding of her.

Then I made sure that we had time…because making good decisions takes time, folks…even for adults.

First, she would walk all around that store looking for her options. The only thing I did at that point was eliminate the ones that where too expensive…not by saying a flat out NO, but by pointing out that if she wanted that then it was all she could have. I knew coming out with just one thing was not what she wanted. This could take a good fifteen minutes to half an hour.

Then she went back around the store collecting her favorite possibilities. She needed them all right in front of her where she could see and touch them in order to make her choice. Which is why…the right store was so important.

Then my little Spock came out as she verbally espoused the pros and cons of each toy. Perhaps eliminating one or two of them at this point…but maybe not.

Once I had the lay of the land…saw the ones she REALLY wanted…then I gave her the limits. I did quick math in my head to see just how much this was going to cost me…worse case scenario. With that in mind, I then gave her a number…in her case in terms of how many she could buy not total cost.

But here is the tricky part, folks…I built in flexibility. I always gave her a number less than the one I could really afford. That way she felt like she had come out ahead when in the end I got to stick to my budget.

At this point, PanKwake began to eliminate items for certain. And each time I confirmed that as a good decision. I know…what about that ‘indirect praise’ thing…oh but it was. I was praising the decision and not her.

We always got to THAT point where there was just one or two more items than the number given. At this point, I did my maths again…and if I could I allowed her both. Otherwise, we took the time to begin it again…the logic.

This process took her half an hour to forty-five minutes…and we were both exhausted by it. But it was worth it …she was learning something that schools no longer teach…

Critical thinking and decision making!

These days we have moved beyond it a bit. I usually just order from Amazon and have done with it. Of course, sometimes it is the same process…just in the comfort of our home…and quicker.

But the other day Cookie Monster pointed out how she was utilizing these same decision making processes on MineCraft…in a much more rapid and intense situation.

Personally, I think that ALL children deserve more control over their lives than society affords them. They are not little slaves…they are born HUMAN BEINGS with wants, needs, and minds all their own. We need to recognize that and give them more options.

BUT for children with PDA this is not optional…they will TAKE control through meltdowns. I suppose it is like a nuclear reaction…when that particle is released you can either have a bomb or an energy plant. And you are the one in control of that atom…by the atmosphere in which you release it.

That is where you have you control…in the environment. In the process. Not in the reaction itself.

While a bit extreme this scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is not as far off as all that….

Personally, I would rather not have that explosion. So I offer PanKwake as many viable options as I can. Even if it takes longer for her to decide…if avoids meltdowns…and more importantly it is teaching her the most important LIFE SKILLS of all…

Decision Making!

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