Radical Unschooling

#100 Days of Home Ed…Day 26

Yesterday, we finished up the ‘official’ PDA Society list of strategies for working with your child with Pathological Demand Avoidance or high-functioning autism with demand avoidant traits as some ‘experts’ are now calling it.

Today, I want to begin adding to that list…my own personal insight that I believe has made all the difference from…

Surviving to Thriving!

Or as the book I want to one day write from all this may be titled…

Living Happily Ever After with Pathological Demand Avoidance.

Of course, you know me…before we get into the how…I want to explain the WHY. Or the first of MY personal list of success strategies…

KNOW THY CHILD!

What? Of course, I know my child. He is MY child. I have had him since birth. How dare you? 

But do you really? Or do you as most people do…see what you want? Do you know this little person or the child you wanted?

  • Do you know her triggers?
  • Can you tell when he is getting stressed?
  • And why?
  • Have you worked out the unique to her strategies that will help to reduce that stress and avoid a meltdown?
  • Or worst case scenario, how to minimize the impact and shorten one when it does happen?

Heck, most of us don’t know ourselves that well. Let alone our children.

This is a different style of parenting…a unique way of looking at your child’s behaviors…one that focuses upon the WHY and not the WHAT of their actions…or reactions.

One that is not common…or perhaps even natural. One that stops and asks…

Hmmm…now WHY is she acting like that?

Then rather than trying to correct that behavior with the carrot or the stick instead tries to address the root cause either by avoiding it all together or minimizing its impacts upon your child.

It is a depth of KNOWING that requires an analytical style of parenting, constant experimentation and adjustment. Like I said…most people do not even understand WHY they do what they do, let alone why another person does…LET ALONE A CHILD WHO BY CONVENTION IS JUST SUPPOSED TO DO WHAT YOU SAY…BECAUSE YOU SAYS SO.

It is NOT something you can do overnight. It takes time.

It is NOT something you do just once. You must keep doing it over and over…every day of your life with your child…as they grow and change.

It is not some magic technique…it is a paradigm shift…a totally different way of thinking and relating to your child…yourself…and life.

It is not about training your child…but about changing YOU! It must come from the heart as much as from the head…because in the middle of one of the nastiest meltdowns that is all that will count.

You see our PDA children are true experts at understanding WHY we act the way we do. This just comes more naturally to them than the rest of us. And if we do not learn to manage that gift properly, they will use it against us.

BUT in the end…it is worth it. For you both.

Two ways of doing this…once you have made that HEART change…techniques…the how that can only work AFTER the why…are:

  • The Incredible 5 Point Scale and…
  • Unschooling.

Before you spend money on books and charts though, this free research paper on the subject does a fairly decent job of explaining the process…and the why (ignore some parts of it about ABA style control their environment stuff…it does not work with PDA).

If you still want more info…this is the resource that I used:

And before you spend more money buying some fancy version of the chart…look at this homemade necklace that PanKwake and I did together with some photos we printed out, colorful card stock, a marker and laminator sheets.

078

Like most other techniques I use, I discovered the Incredible 5 Point Scale on my own through my reading. I remember DURING the speech and language evaluation that was part of PanKwake’s autism diagnosis, the speech therapist was shocked when PanKwake climbed under the table saying, ‘I’m a four.’ I started to explain but she knew exactly what my daughter meant…just was not expecting to hear it from a home ed child who had not yet received a diagnosis.

PanKwake’s pretty necklace hangs in her art area now. Neither of us need a physical reminder anymore. In fact, we rarely use the number either. We have moved on to the words that they represented…happy, excited, out of control, angry and meltdown. We have added loads more feeling words too…upset, worried, stressed. But in its day, the scale was an excellent starting point for knowing my child. And for her understanding herself and her emotions.

The thing was that using the scale cued me to looking for behaviors that I knew corresponded to certain numbers. Things like talking louder, fidgeting, light and noise sensitivity at the extreme even the classically autistic rocking back and forth (high four…get her off that bus NOW before she meltdowns).

Yesterday was ANOTHER incredibly busy day…after a major jump forward on her body clock and a short night’s sleep…PanKwake had a bad meltdown (well, bad for these days but mild compared to the ones she once did) while her carer was here. And I knew just what to do…leave her alone in her room and be quiet. It went against everything that her carer had been taught to do when she worked in the schools.

The thing is that I KNEW what would help PanKwake to calm down faster because I KNOW my child. And the Incredible 5 Point Scale got us off to a good start. It gave PanKwake and I a shared emotional vocabulary. It got me to thinking like a detective.

You see in the end…as the parent of a child with Pathological Demand Avoidance or high-functioning autism you become like Sherlock Holmes. One of the greatest detectives, who ever lived. You begin to see the culprits. You come to know exactly how the crime was committed.

One thing to remember though…that like Holmes’s nemesis Moriarty, autism is an opponent that will never be beaten (though Holmes did eventually I think). It always gets away to come back another day.

But that’s OK because like we talked about before even after the worst meltdown in a long while, we went on to have a kick butt day with home ed basketball, the adventure playground, pizza, the rock climbing wall, swimming and even surfing in the boardrider section of the pool.

Honestly, when you know your child, their triggers, and the best ways to calm them, PDA and autism is not the horrible life sentence that the books make it out to be. There REALLY can be…

Living Happily Ever After with Pathological Demand Avoidance.

I know…because PanKwake, Cookie Monster and I do it every day.

The thing is that like snowflakes…no two children are the same. I cannot tell you how to manage your child. And be very leery of anyone who says they can. Despite what the experts say…and what parents may want…there is no one correct way of handling every child. No one method that works…it is about the WHY more than the how or the what. But once you know that then you too can work out the best way to handle your UNIQUE snowflake.

Since this is #100DaysOfHomeEd, I want to come back to the unschooling bit and give it the attention it deserves…several days worth. But honestly, I am not sure it is possible at all to do this without home ed. It would certainly take different kind of school than I have ever seen to do so.

 

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