The current view of PDA; as an anxiety driven need to remain in control, certainly echoes in our family.
The pursuit of more knowledge throughout this journey has been part of my own need to feel more in control. This has driven me to explore some of the many questions around PDA. One of these questions is around the anxiety driven aspect.
Anxiety has many and varied presentations, some of which are invisible, many of which are misunderstood. We sometimes refer to anxiety as though it’s definition is a universally accepted truth. But anxiety can be seen in many forms and the way we understand it, makes a big difference to how insightful and compassionate we are in navigating it.
When we look at anxiety through a Polyvagal lens, it becomes much clearer and for me the most fully applicable to PDA.
Through a Polyvagal lens, anxiety is; an overactive neuroception system.
Overactive or highly sensitive neuroception is not faulty cognition, it is a filter through which information is sent from the body to the brain. It powerfully determines which autonomic pathway is activated and this determines the response that is generated. When we talk about differently wired brains and start to become really curious about the neuroscience of PDA, we come face to face with how a brain wired for protection can present.
Protective responses in the form of the Five Fs, have been set out in one of my earlier articles here:
This article is just the tip of the iceberg though. In it, I explored how the nervous system is constantly working hard in the background, out of our awareness, determining our autonomic state and how this is governed by what Stephen Porges refers to as Neuroception; our nervous system’s threat detection system. I hypothesised that highly sensitive Neuroception may be at the heart of PDA, which I absolutely believe it to be. The narrative only covers the very early stages of this area of enquiry however, and needs to be quite considerably expanded in order to present all of the layers required for a neurobiological formulation of PDA.
To build such a formulation, we need to explore and understand the autonomic nervous system in greater depth and the way it relates to Autism and PDA. One of the key benefits of doing this, is that it allows us to start to build a respectful friendship with our own autonomic nervous system. This then crucially allows us to see, feel and experience the relationship between our own nervous system and another’s.
Understanding how our own nervous system communicates with our child’s, can be and for us has been, transformational. I am working away on writing about just this, something that is a much more detailed piece of work, and I am really excited to be able to share this with you in the near future.
As this progresses, I will keep updating my Facebook page with small quotes that will be part of this piece of work as well as continuing to share others work with you. 💛
In mainstream society our personal freedom, autonomy and agency is threatened every day, many times a day. This happens even more frequently for children. For those with an anxiety driven need for control, some of these ‘threats’ are packaged in the form of everyday demands.
Demands is a very broad term that needs to be unpacked.
The PDA Autistic response to demands is akin to a person’s survival response to fear and places them firmly in a neuroception of threat.
Understanding the Autonomic Nervous system (ANS) is so important in helping us to care for, parent and educate our children more effectively.
The information that is sent from our body to our brains is affected by sensory processing differences; interoception and exteroception challenges. Exploring and understanding these is an essential part of understanding PDA.
There is so much more to PDA though, many characteristics that remain overshadowed by the PDAers pervasive avoidance of everyday demands. These include:
A PDAers ability to hyper focus, to become a master of their interests, to role play, to find their own ways of regulating as they develop and mature, to negotiate, influence, lead, inspire, motivate others, be creative, are but a few of the many wonderful aspects of the PDA Autistic identity.
The key to parenting a child with PDA is to seek change in ourselves, as parents. This includes understanding our own nervous system and better regulating it first.
For our PDA Autistic children to feel safe, it is our responsibility to stop expecting the child to change and start parenting, caring and educating differently. #ParadigmShift