My little boy greatly struggles with being flexible in his thoughts and ideas. Once he has something in his mind, no matter how achievable it is, there is little chance of being able to influence his thought process. This is partly due to the fact that if he is asked to change the way he does something then he feels that he is not in control, a signficiant trait of PDA. This immediately increases his anxiety levels and can result in challenging behaviour.
This inevitably causes many issues over the course of a day. We have many food related problems. He has very set ideas on what he will and won’t eat, and there is no way that he can be persuaded to try new things. He has the same food most days. Very occasionally he will throw a curveball and demand something completely different. If we don’t have this in the house he gets very upset and many a time we’ve ended up at the local shop desperately searching for a particular item. It has led to having to be prepared for all eventualities and buying many items for that ‘just in case’ moment.
He finds it very hard to understand when something has broken or doesn’t work. For example if the wifi isn’t working he will demand we rectify it immediately. If a toy gets broken he expects us to fix it. He simply can not comprehend a situation whereby we are powerless to make it right. He believes everything can be fixed and will not accept ‘it can’t’ as an answer.
It can be difficult to remain calm when he is demanding the impossible and refusing to listen to reason. He’ll often shout over us or scream when we attempt to explain why something is not possible. It is not that he doesn’t want to hear it, but more that he can’t hear it because his brain is not capable of accepting reason at that point in time. We have learnt that that the only way to help is to give him time to accept a situation. This can be anything from a few minutes to a few hours. Rushing him is not an option, it will only increase his anxiety and the likelihood of having a meltdown.
Although it is frustrating when he won’t let us explain, it must be even more frustrating for my little boy. Imagine not having the ability to adapt your thoughts. We all know that life isn’t straightforward and changes occur every step of the way. Frequently we have to change the way we do something, the time that we do it or the order that we do it in. This flexibility does not come easily to my boy. On days where his anxiety is low he is more able to tolerate changes or unexpected events, but on other days we can spend hours trying to deal with impossible demands or expectations. Equally if something goes wrong, his mood can switch instantaneously from happy to angry.
My hope is that as he gets older he is able to develop strategies to deal with change and become more able to adjust to life’s diversities. In the meantime we just have to be as patient as we possibly can and allow him the time that he needs. In all honesty this is not always easy as, understandably, our own tolerance levels vary from day to day. But one way or another, with support from each other, we get there and each situation is managed to the best of our ability.