This post comes to you straight from the mouth of our 7 year old baby bear who was diagnosed with PDA.
We’d had a brief meltdown over mummagrizzlybear buying the ‘wrong cheese’ and therefore ruining the prospect of cheese on toast. In mummagrizzlybear’s head this meltdown was not a great indicator that we’d successfully get around the supermarket unscathed. However with minimal intervention baby bear uncharacteristically calmed and joined me at the table for the wrong cheese on toast. (Feeding before shopping is a must). I used humour and mocked myself for getting such silly cheese and planting the seed that he could select and buy just the right cheese at the shops. As we were compliantly engaging in reasonable conversation I dared to open up a new discussion.
At a recent meds review the psychiatrist was keen to get to understand baby bears perspective and help him learn to be able to know when he might need some xtra medicine to help him cope. (He is on a very small dosage each night and a prescription for an ‘as and when required’ small dose also). On mothers day he’d yelled out “you should have known I’d need medicine to be able to do this” and this was my first eye opener to his ability to predict (and over worry about) challenges. I want to know more. I want to put this to good use.
So I asked. ‘Do you think going shopping is one of those things you find tricky?’
He replied straight away. ‘It’s leaving the house and getting ready that’s tricky’.
‘Ah, I see, so I guess that explains why it’s tricky to even go to places you want to go?’
‘Yea, once I get there it can be ok. It can even be fun. As long as people keep out of my way.’
‘So how can I help you get ready to go out?’
‘That’s easy’, he says ‘just make it fun, like, let’s hop in the car we are gonna have fun in the trolley’
‘Oh ok’, I say, ‘I’ll practice that more’.
Lunch passed our lips with little mention of the wrong cheese again and I wondered how much the meltdown had really been about getting ready to go out.
Next I needed to get him ready to leave (socks and shoes are a big issue). I tried reshaping my usual request type demand but it came out wrong. He smirked at me. ‘You forgot mummy’. I say, ‘you’re right, I did, show me how I could have done it’. Excitedly he giggled and shouts ‘we need socks so we can go put treats in the trolley’ and runs upstairs grabbing socks and independently pops them on!
Before heading out the door I said ‘hmmm, it might be cold out, I’m taking a coat’, he said ‘my PDA wants me to not take a coat , I’m taking my comfy jumper’.
The shopping trip was not without hiccups but in an effort to learn from each new day I’ve concluded that;
1) meltdowns will not always be about the obvious nor the thing they are ‘frustrated with’ in that moment.
2) where possible less is more when a meltdown is occurring. If safe to, avoid engaging in it..back away and remain calm. Talking to them, over them or at them exasperated things
3) use calmer opportunities to open up lines of communication. Ask what it’s like for them? See if they know of a better way you can help? Be interested in their suggestions. Talk until it’s clear it’s time to move on. This might be very short bursts but in our case our pda’er really holds on to info for a later date.
4) use humour. Definitely definitely use humour.
5) plant seeds. Let them come up with the ideas.
6) do not set yourself up to fail by being too rigid about the expectations and rules
7) shift the focus from the request or the demand and make it about the ‘fun’ or next thing that will follow
8) offer reassurance and humility, we all need comfort and to know that we can all get it wrong sometimes
9) be prepared to move on without successfully getting what you wanted but, return to it, try a new tact, you’ll get there.
10) be a team. Make yourself available to them and join them in learning about how their condition affects them.