Tuesday 9 July 2019

The challenges of building friendships

Today was Trampoline Tuesday and so we headed back to the  session for home educated children which we were at last week (and a year ago, when Sasha was last out of school).
Sasha on trampoline, laughing loud

One of the reasons she has been able to go back is because there is a great teacher there; she's calm and knows how to have fun with Sasha, pushing her just a little bit but not too much. Sasha definitely feeds off this and often asks her for more instructions (although sometimes that's just so that she can say 'no' to them in a cheeky way). They are not great quality photos sorry but I think you can make out the huge grin and laugh on Sasha's face. She was loving it.

It's fun to watch, and Sasha clearly loves bouncing. Because there's around ten children who attend, the bouncing time has to be shared (there are two trampolines) but that's good because it means Sasha doesn't get too hot and bothered.

For in-between the bounce times, there are some soft play mats and objects at the side in the hall, which the children are allowed to play with. This is also part of the fun for Sasha -  I think she thinks she can't play with this kind of thing any more in other places because it's a childish thing for younger children (not that I have ever said that to her, pretty sure no-one else has either).
sasha sitting in middle of soft play area, sad

She enjoyed this soft play area initially, but then began to struggle as a group of the other children not bouncing at that time were hanging out on the mats too. She began to get upset, and just sat curled up with her head down for a long while. When I tried to speak to her, she told me that she was sad because she didn't know how to join in with the other children. She didn't know what to say, and she didn't think she could throw herself around acrobatically like they all were (flips and stuff were happening!), so she felt on the outside of the group and it made her sad. 

It wasn't the fault of the children there at all, in fact it was lovely to watch a couple of them come over to try to persuade Sasha to join in. She just didn't feel she could though. She didn't know the 'rules' of this kind of free play, and general chat is not something she finds easy. It didn't help that there was only one girl in the group; Sasha has somehow convinced herself that she can't be friends with boys. Which is always a tricky thing to try to explain to the other mums...

Despite my best efforts to reassure Sasha, we left early, just like we have from other situations many times before. Before we went though, I was lucky enough to speak with one of the other Mums there who reminded me that lots of children find situations like this difficult, and there is often a certain amount of pain and awkwardness to overcome, even over a few weeks, before friendships can begin to be formed. I know this is true of course, and I'm holding on to that thought for sure, but I also know what an uphill struggle everything is at the moment for Sasha. She feels very wobbly after having been hurt by what happened at school, and her self-esteem is rock bottom. So I will work as hard as I can to raise her up, and I will remember that this is a marathon not a sprint.

(p.s. I did ask Sasha's permission before posting this. She said I could use any photo as long as it wasn't the star jump one - which is a shame, because that was probably the best of the bunch 😂)

For some great advice on how to help build good self esteem in your child, this blog post could help: The importance of developing self esteem.

To find out more about our experiences, please check out our 'About Us' page. If you are looking for more information on Pathological Demand Avoidance, the posts below may help.

What is PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)?

Ten things you need to know about Pathological Demand Avoidance

Does my child have Pathological Demand Avoidance?

The difference between PDA and ODD

Strategies for PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

Pathological Demand Avoidance: Strategies for Schools

Challenging Behaviour and PDA

Is Pathological Demand Avoidance real?

Autism with demand avoidance or Pathological Demand Avoidance?

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  1. Hi Steph. My son's swim instructor recently told us that he thinks that Kai has PDA. I'm not sure but we definitely see avoidance of demands, high levels of anxiety, and low self esteem. Kai reacts to things differently than Sasha in social situations - he tends to get angry whereas Sasha seems to withdraw - but I think the underlying reasons are the same... not really knowing how to interact with other kids.

    I don't think PDA gets talked about as much in the States as most of the literature on the web seems to be based in the UK. Thanks for continuing to write about it and share your experiences. Best to you.

    1. Hi Yuji, so good to hear from you again, I've often wondered how Kai is doing! Plenty of children do show their anxiety by lashing out rather than what Sasha has done so far, which is withdraw... I think PDA is gaining some understanding in the USA - The Autism Discussion page has mentioned it, and there is a separate Facebook PDA USA group too x


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