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Are your PDA children short and sharp with you in front of others at times?

Apr 07, 2024

This can actually be culturally and socially appropriate.

We accept that teens do this as part of their identity formation and separation from us into their transition toward a sense of self in adolescence. We make jokes about “the teen years”, and many PDAers actually come into the world forming identity much sooner, believing themselves to be on par emotionally, intellectually with all people, of all ages.

It’s not out of a lack of respect, but a non-adherence to age based social hierarchies, such as respecting elders because of their age; or complying with the requests of adults due to their position of power.

Our PDAers often prematurely experience those teen years. On top of more pressure than they can cope with, due to their neurobiology.
This means that they may feel disrespected when treated like children.

This isn't intentional, it isn't conscious, it’s an advancement of a natural, organic developmental stage we see in teens, it just happens to occur earlier. On top of this, another reason our PDA children appear to be rude to us around others is due to their need to balance out the perceived loss of control when in a different environment, when around others, when out of their comfort zone. Natural energy sensors, our PDA loved ones will detect almost immediately where there is difference, dishonesty and dysregulation.

A few years back, one of my children would call out my masking around others.

"Mum, why are you masking? Just be yourself" they’d say, while I was in conversation with someone.
After a lifetime of being autistic and masking in order to survive, a conversation needed to be had regarding why masking takes place for many of us, and the risk we at times can place ourselves at when unmasking with unfamiliar people.
PDA children see through the smoke and mirrors. They know when we're not ourselves. It doesn't matter what we say, what expressions we paste across our faces or how 'calm' or regulated we pretend to be. They sniff out dishonesty and it creates a lack of safety for them.
The conversation with my child around my need for safety as a PDA autistic is something they relate to and understand. It is based in truth. And whilst my children have a right to thrive in positive identity and culture, we still live in a world that expects and asks us to comply with neuronormativity.

Resistance is a privilege, and there is responsibility that comes with privilege. It's important for our children to know and understand this.
I want to nurture the skills my child has to intuitively know when someone is masking, as it's a primitive reflex to detect whether they are safe. I want them to know that I am still undoing, unlearning, and reparenting myself. The need for a PDAer to call out dishonesty is a means of providing themselves with safety.
It is a dismantling of social inequalities that are suspected when their parent is taking on a persona.

My baby calling me out is a variation of:
“I can see something here. You’re different. You’re not who I know you to be and that’s threatening my security and the person I plug into energetically to remain secure. Why are you doing this? Help me understand. I know something is wrong here.”

By bracing this conversation with them, I am consolidating this inherent skill PDAers are born with, to keep them safe. I am supporting them to harness this, in their witnessing of my own experience. I am saying:
“Yes. What you are witnessing is exactly as you are experiencing it. Your intuition is powerful and wise, as it seeks to keep you safe. What I’m doing is masking, and I use it as a tool to keep myself safe, and it is so automatic to me that I don’t always realise I’m doing it. There are also times I use this tool when I am wanting to improve the quality of my life, such as job interviews, accessing supports, and other areas in life where I’m not sure of the situation and who I’m coming into space with. Though I use it as a tool to assess safety, it isn’t always a reflection of a lack of safety.”

In engaging in this discussion, I not only support the harnessing of their intuition in healthy ways, I contribute to preventing the misfiring, and misdirection of their nervous system response from becoming stronger via the process of being denied by adults, and disabling their own ability to move forward in life.

Every single time a PDAer calls us out, and we deny their experience and what they know, we contribute to a confused, misfiring nervous system that becomes the enemy.
No matter what we want our children to do, say, think and feel, who we want them to be; they cannot. They can only be who they are supposed to be. Their birthright.

Pathologisation is disabling.

Actualisation is enabling a more informed sense of self that radically accepts all of our parts.


- Kristy Forbes


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