PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) and villains
Dec 27, 2020
Why do so many children with a PDA autistic profile take on the character of a villain, a bad guy or a monster, werewolf, zombie, anything that seems a disapproved of figure?
Because we come to understand very quickly that there is something powerful within us that even we cannot overcome that causes the same level of disapproval.
By educators, parents, immediate and extended family, members of the public, our friends and their families.
When we're told not to do something, our brain responds with a frenzied need to do it.
When we're asked to do something, our brain responds with a neurobiological stand off and there often isn't a language to offer those on the outside looking in.
As children, we don't understand why we can't, or why we don't.
We don't understand our "unacceptability".
We just know that we are bad.
Often, in our best trying to be calmer, more focused, less reactive, less explosive, to come out of our rooms more often, to shower, to do all the things and be all the things we know you want us to be..
And so who is it that offers us a character that we so readily relate to in many ways?
There is a force within, a power, an energy that is unstoppable.
There is societal rejection and often a sense of abandonment.
There is a character who is, by definition alone; an outcast. Yet they have found a way to harness all of their perceived flaws and conjure them into a force to be reckoned with.
Allowing our children to explore these characters is healthy and vital.
It is a foundational way for them to find ways to understand themselves and explore an internal world that seems too big for anyone to handle.
As a society, we don't offer examples of human that our PDA children can relate to without bias, without fear and panic attached.
We decide who is right and wrong and where they belong.
We attach all kinds of unhelpful binary labels that are associated with duality: either lightness or darkness, good or bad.
Rather than lecturing our children about the unacceptable nature of villains, perhaps we might try exploring how a villain came to be a villain and learn from this ourselves, rather than directing the responsibility of change toward our vulnerable children who need our unconditional love and support.
When my children become villains, I join them.
We talk about their strength, their power, their skills.
We talk about and explore together their need to keep others at bay, and I, the adult, learn more from their play than any judgement or behavioural approach possible.
I encourage all families to join their children in play and to identify the characters with which their children most relate to, without judgement, without agenda.
Image description: A young girl wears a mask of a character, looking off into the distance.