18 September 2018

Pathological Demand Avoidance - Reducing Your Child's Anxiety

Parenting can be hard, it can be challenging and frustrating and confusing, navigating your self in a world which is dominated by social media and as a No 1 go to for parenting tips and advice in the form of forums and Facebook groups and blogs, you’ll often find conflicting advice on how to help your child with certain difficulties and find yourself in a tug of war with other parents judging you for the decisions that you make.

Throughout this blog post I will be focussing on our journey with Lola and how we have made major changes to our parenting to help Lola with her anxiety which has helped us as a family grow together. 

Some people may find they’ve already tried these techniques, or that their child is too old, or too anxious or wont be able to comprehend the changes due to learning difficulties. 

Please keep an open mind, if you are at your wits end and have tried everything then there is no harm in giving these strategies a good go before ruling them out. These strategies can be used and adapted depending on your child's age, or cognitive ability and can swapped weekly or monthly until you settle on a natural understanding routine that you are all comfortable with.

Lola was diagnosed with Autism with a demand avoidant profile in November 2017. She was 8 years old. We knew about Pathological Demand Avoidance from when she was around age 3, but as we didn’t have a diagnosis and her profile was so spiky I think we had a natural reluctance to push through and allow these strategies to become a normal part of our life and thus the improvements were in spurts and never long term. 

I cant give you a magic wand I’m afraid, I so wish I could, because I completely understand the difficulties that you and your family have whilst trying to lead a calm and joyful life together with making sense of this long journey that feels like it is never ending. There is no quick fix, no magic wand and its going to take a lot of consistency, patience, understanding and a firm partnership with those around you who are involved with your children’s upbringing.

Firstly, you need to relax, take some time to compose yourself and really think about how you are going to tackle this. Think about it realistically - How will everyone else cope or be affected? and how will those around you be supported so that they can understand why this approach is necessary? For this to have a better chance at being successful you need everyone to be supportive and backing your decisions 100%. Think about what is really important for your family? What do you want to gain most from changing your parenting technique? 

Your child who is demand avoidant is struggling with anxiety because they feel out of control. They need you and everyone around them to adopt techniques that will enable their anxiety to reduce, to a level that they feel comfortable enough to feel in control and mentally able enough to begin to follow normal everyday routines, without the extreme avoidance that has an impact not only on the child but on everyone around them. 

Language is the key component to managing a child's demand avoidance. Language is also the most complex component to engaging with a child. Each child is different, and thus their ability to understand, process and interpret language is going to be different also. The main point to remember when using spoken language to a demand avoidant child is to change your terminology and use of instructions. 

TRY NOT TO INSTRUCT Instructions indicate there is NO CHOICE. 

NO CHOICE leads to a rise in ANXIETY.

ANXIETY causes the child to feel OUT OF CONTROL.



When you change your language, magical things can happen, maybe not overnight, but in time your child’s anxiety will decrease and you’ll find that they are much more tolerant and much more able to comply when they aren’t bombarded with instructions or demands and they are able to process things more constructively and peacefully. 

Its equally important to note here, that even though a child with demand avoidance is more tolerable, the language should NOT revert back. This will most likely cause a regression and you will have to start all over again. This regression could also mean it will take longer for your child to feel in control next time around. 

Sometimes its possible to increase the demands where you have studied your child's behaviour and tolerance levels and know that they can mange a slight increase. Use your experience of the child's behaviour to determine when you are able to increase non - instructed demands and when you shouldn’t.

The more you understand your child's non - verbal behaviour, mannerisms, and their thought process the easier this whole strategy will become.

Please keep an eye out for the second part of this blog post series where I will guide you step by step to help reduce those demands and make some simple changes your language.

Please remember THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

Please let me know if you’re going to give this a go? Does it all make sense? I am always happy to answer any questions you may have over on my Facebook Page or Insta so feel free to get in touch.

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  1. Brilliant post, I'm going to share it!Thank you

    1. Anonymous18/9/18 12:29

      Thank you so much Libby, I really value your opinion. x