August 12, 2021


by: admin


Tags: ADHD, Autism, experience, Familys


Categories: adhd

A Household’s Expertise w/ ADHD & Autism

One of the most difficult tasks in raising a unique child is explaining exactly who they are and how our lives work to family, friends, teachers, and others. Over time, I’ve developed this metaphor to describe our experiences and our different parenting styles: Most people have dogs, but I have a cat. My cat is amazing, but most people insist he is a dog. Which of course it isn’t.

Like most cats, my cat does not obey orders to sit down and stay – even when directed by experts who have successfully trained thousands of dogs to do these things on command.

While people understand and accept that cats don’t do dog things, many continue to insist that my cat is a dog and that my cat can do dog things. You reject my statements to the contrary.

People who think I have a dog may suggest compliance training methods “helpful,” but I know from experience that most canine methods won’t work on my cat. I see and confirm that I have a cat (although it often looks like a dog to others!). Treating him like a dog who can be compliant will only lead to significant frustration for everyone involved. Those who treat my cat like a cat early on have much more rewarding relationships in the end.

I have learned to limit contact with people who insist on having a dog, and especially those who are trying to force dog methods on my cat while criticizing my feline methods. What helped is finding people who have cats of their own and asking them what works on their cats. While cats share similar traits, it is important to understand that each cat is unique and to accept that many things that work well in other cats may not work for you.

[Get This Free Download: 13-Step Guide to Raising a Child with ADHD]

Understand how to avoid pathological demands

I used the cat-dog metaphor to describe what it is like to raise my son gifted with ADHD and autistic PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance). The latter is a term that is increasingly used to describe autistic children facing extreme demands and demands, no matter how big or small, even if the demands are of obvious use and interest to them.

For my son, PDA means that compliance is not possible. However, collaboration is very possible and much more likely if you give up the thought of compliance.

I have accepted that I can never force my child to do anything. Instead, I focus on leading him to collaborate. It took years for him to trust that we were really not trying to force him to do things. Now that trust has been built, we mostly treat each other respectfully as equal adults (he is 12 years old).

We creatively solve problems for unwanted things that need to be done and explain the logic and science behind the solutions. (He hates getting injections, for example, but he cooperates because we declare that they will protect him from disease. We even negotiated a complex shooting protocol with multiple steps, all of which we carefully follow according to his instructions.)

[Related Reading: Why Is My Child So Angry and Defiant? An Overview of Oppositional Defiant Disorder]

Required tasks must be supported by science and logic, and we must give it time to understand and decide to work together, even after all the evidence has been presented. Sudden demands are almost always answered with rejection, so we try to never make them. But that is difficult and requires a complete change in all parenting considerations. We’re trying to see ourselves as coaches rather than parents now.

Working with his school to develop and implement a detailed IEP that will work for him is difficult, ongoing work. Many school staff still deny that there are children like mine, despite the clear evidence they have on hand. Sometimes employees insist on ridiculously inadequate methods that always fail and baffle them, but are still unwilling to try other methods.

A rare handful of the best educators have recognized that we as parents know our child best and have actually implemented proven “cat” methods with positive, rewarding results. Still others identify my son as a unicorn – a mythical animal that has never been seen before – and realize that he actually exists and needs various things to survive.

I am deeply grateful to the online groups of parents and adult “cats” who have helped us identify what kind of cat we have and how to treat it properly.

Cats just can’t be trained like dogs. Children and adults with PDAs are cats in a canine world. However, the vast majority are treated “normally” instead – which can lead to serious consequences. Many parents of children with PDA endure years of education and the disbelief of professionals about what they are actually facing. The handful who receive early diagnosis, proper treatment, and precise guidance (which includes changing the environment and interacting with all people) have the chance for a successful life.

What metaphors help you explain your life to others?

Avoiding Pathological Demands: Next Steps

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Updated August 5, 2021

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