Has My Environment Altered My Brain??


A mothers honest account of living with her daughter who is on the autistic spectrum, a sub category known as Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome – the difficulties she endured and how she overcame her struggles.

Has My Environment Altered My Brain??.


2 thoughts on “Has My Environment Altered My Brain??

  1. Ricky

    Hi there,

    I have considered whether or not I have PDA since working with children that have it at a school I work at. An increasing number of people (friends, family, ex girlfriends) have all suggested that I fit the diagnostic criteria.

    When I was a kid, I had special needs myself. I had a speech impediment and still struggle a little bit with my speech nowadays. I had special needs all my life and was signed off all together at the age of 18. I know that language delay is one symptom of PDA. But looking back at my life, I can’t help but wonder even today if my behaviour was down to something more than just simply not doing what I’m told. Now I am 23 years old and I am stuck on what to do.

    When I was at first school (reception to year 5 where I live) I was incredibly naughty at school. I would not do my work and do it at my own pace. Any excuse to miss school was a welcome break. I did not cope very well with the simple demands like keeping quiet in assembly (I had to be sent out numerous times), work (I did not listen to what I was told to do a lot of the time) and I resisted a lot of demands when I was younger like going back to do my work at lunchtime, and I used to play up at cubs due to the demand of working with other children when I was not in control. I used to bite a lot of children. I also used to get jealous of my sister when she was getting all the attention and I used to refuse to help out in the school hall when tidying up at the end. My behaviour got worse until I found a good group of friends in year 5 and my education got so bad that my first school almost sent me to a special needs’ school. When I was in year six, the behaviour continued and I almost got excluded. As you can see, I have an early passive history which is another diagnostic criteria. My first school thought my behaviour was autistic, but no one has ever complained about my eye contact.

    But when I was in year 7, I developed an interest for politics after September 11th and started to work hard in History lessons at school and then in all my other subjects because my interest for History developed and I realised that if I work hard in my other subjects, I can work hard in others. So my behaviour started to change in the classroom and I became less passive. I now have a History and Politics degree from the University of Nottingham and I am on the verge of doing a PGCE which is not bad for someone who nearly got sent to a special needs school.

    However, that need to avoid demands continued into home life as opposed to school life. The demands of my parents’ divorce got worse as I got older. I did not like getting involved in my parents’ arguments. I used to disobey my stepdad A LOT and get very violent towards him over the years due to a need to resist his authority because I did not ‘respect’ him as a legitimate source of authority. That relationship is at its lowest point ever today because of all that passive history towards me. My Mum says that nowadays, trying to tell me off is like ‘walking on egg shells’ and I am 23. MOST people I know say I have a Jekyll and Hyde personality, another classic symptom of PDA and I have been recommended for anger management (even though my doctors think I’m ‘normal’). I confess I have no sense of self identity and get confused by my different personality traits as to whether I am a nasty or lovely person. I just try and do things when I want to. I don’t like being told to do things, I like to do things at my own pace.

    I also got increasingly passive towards my Mum over the years for placing demands on me. One day in 2010 I had a violent outburst on her because she kept stressing me out with the demands of dealing with my dogs periods which led to a violent confrontation with my stepdad. I also get angry when my dad places demands on me and do everything I can to avoid his demands and get anxious when my friends ask me to do things.

    I have had numerous groups of friends throughout my time at school due to not always feeling satisfied with the way things are going. When I was out with my friends one day in 2008, I got into a huff because they all did something that I did not want to do. At university I was renowned for arguing with my friends because they all did things that I did not want to do which led to one of my friends agreeing with me that I fit the diagnostic spectrum when I asked him if PDA sounded like me. In my student house, I was renowned for being bossy and always setting cleaning rotas. I have a good group of friends now and my groups of friends in the past were awful, but that’s because my group of friends treat me like a normal person, not judge me by my special needs or who I’ve hung out with in the past. I even violently thumped one of my former friends in a classroom once!

    In one of my voluntary roles I take on in 2011, I fell out with another committee member for feeling like he was taking control of the organisation that I felt so in control of.

    I still become obsessive (to an unhealthy degree) with individuals, especially girls, and at university one girl confronted me for becoming obsessive with her.

    At the moment, I pot wash for extra money, but I hate it when demands are made of me and I have been renowned for being called ‘Angry Matt’ and nowadays other members of staff say to me ‘do this when you’re ready’ cos I hate being landed with pot washing. I just hate demands and prefer it when people don’t shout at me cos I shout or argue back.

    I have also lost girlfriends due to my controlling behaviour. I threatened to dump one if she got a tattoo, had a go at another for being friends with someone I don’t like and got angry at many others so much so that one ex recently suggested to me that I have it.

    There is always a desire for me to be in control. That is why i want to be in charge of everything. I am now Area Chairman of this organisation where I got anxious once that another committee member would jeopardise my chances of gaining that position.

    I like praise, and come across that way, but sometimes the praise gets too much and I don’t like it.

    Does anyone here think I fit the diagnostic criteria? Because I am being told by my fellow committee members, friends and family that I could have it. My sister thinks I do! Thanks for reading.

    • janesherwin

      hello Ricky, I am not qualified to diagnose and PDA in an adult may not present as obviously as it does in a child. The main distinction between Asperger’s (which may be a possibility also) and PDA is the level of demand avoidance and the strategies used to avoid those demands along with a much better level of empathy / imagination / theory of the mind in individuals with PDA. Children with Aspergers can also hate demands and being told what to do, my son is like this and he has Asperger’s. My daughter has PDA but her level of avoidance is a completely different level. Children with PDA will avoid the most basic of everyday demands e.g. personal hygiene, getting dressed, answering questions, leaving the house, going to the shop and often have to be in full control of every aspect of their lives including the interactions of other people. The methods used to avoid those demands are also different, my Aspie son just simply refuses and pushing him would, when he was younger, result in a meltdown. Mollie on the other hand uses much more complex strategies in order to avoid the demand e.g. distraction, delaying, refusing, ignoring, negotiating and coming up with complex excuses E.G. “I’ll do it when I’ve done this”, “oh, look at blueberry bear she is so sad, cheer her up”, “I can’t do it my legs won’t work, I need to stay on this computer or it will break” and so on. Children with PDA have good imaginative play but it can be repetitive, this imagination allows them to have a great ‘theory of the mind’ which would be unusual with children with Asperger’s. They intuitively know which buttons to press in order to manipulate a situation. If Mollie does not want a certain visitor coming to the house she may say upon the arrival of said visitor “you are so ugly and fat” in order to make the person upset and therefore leave. An individual with Asperger’s may also say this but for different reasons i.e. because it is the truth but not because they have the social imagination to know that this will cause offense and result in the person leaving. Hope this makes sense. Check out the pda resource page there is a facebook group for adults with pda where you could discuss this with other pda adults as my experience is limited to children. I also have another article on my blog that may help you to decide between pda and aspergers but from what you say I think that both options are worthy of investigation for you. My hubbie has aspergers also and he was very violent / explosive at school.

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