In any family it can be difficult to balance the needs of individual children within the family unit.  This can be even more difficult for a family when they have a child with PDA. The effects on siblings can be really harsh and may cause them a great deal of stress, upset and resentment.

  • Siblings can often bare the brunt of verbal and violent outbursts.
  • They may feel stifled and controlled by their sibling with PDA.
  • It must be very distressing for them to witness meltdowns and their parents distress.
  • Consistent and focused attention on their sibling with PDA may make them feel left out and resentful.
  • They may feel that it is very unfair and unjust that their sibling gets away with things that he or she simply wouldn’t be allowed to.
  • Individuals with PDA may often appear to be intensely jealous of their sibling and may actively try to prevent positive interaction between their sibling and parents.
  • They may find their siblings behaviour deeply embarrassing when they have peers around to play or, as they grow older, visit.

What we did to try to address these issues

  • Our son had his own space, within the family home, which was out of bounds for our daughter unless her brother agreed that she could go in.  This was one of our non negotiable boundaries.  We went through years of meltdowns that would last for hours by maintaining this boundary.  But maintain it we did because it was vitally important that our son had a safe retreat where he could get away from it all.  It also meant that we could facilitate his friends coming around and for these important play-dates to not be sabotaged by his sister.
  • This not only offered him protection from the outbursts but it also meant that he could escape from the intense control that she excerted over him.
  • We would try to always take things on the chin and to not let our emotions readily flow out, in-front of our son.  But this simply wasn’t always possible when emotions were running very high.  But we consoled ourselves with the fact that at least we were protecting him and trying to provide for him in all other areas.
  • We tried to ensure that each child enjoyed quality one on one time with one parent or the other.  This would often mean that we operated as two separate units within the family unit but it did help to keep things calm.  During very bad times my son, if we couldn’t do it, would be given quality time with another family member.  This also helped to keep my daughter’s anxieties lower because she was much calmer in one to one situations and far more challenging when we operated as a whole family.
  • We still tried to maintain some family outings or family time in order to keep some semblance of family life.  But these times were greatly reduced when perhaps compared to a typical family.
  • We tried to educate our son about his sister’s condition and to encourage him to be patient, tolerant and to make allowances for her.  The following book may be helpful in assisting with teaching siblings a greater understanding of their brother or sister’s difficulties Can I Tell You About PDA. There is also a book published by Autism East Midlands which is specifically for siblings of children with PDA.  Please contact  Autism East Midlands for further information.
  • Our parenting approaches were based on the same principals for both of them which narrowed the gap of any differences between how our two children were parented. Many parents follow a philosophy of Gentle / Positive Parenting and this is how we naturally began to parented both of our children, it is very similar to the Ross Greene approach.
  • Therefore although my two children both had different needs, my son is diagnosed with Asperger’s and my daughter with PDA.  We parented them using the same approaches and offering the same flexibility.  We didn’t have sticker charts, rules and strict boundaries for one and complete flexibility with very few boundaries for the other.  This helped to lessen any feelings of unfairness.
  • We found that by offering our daughter loads of one to one attention while simultaneously giving our son a lot of one to one attention helped to lesson the jealousy.  Also, very often her brothers one to one time would occur outside of the home and so his sister did not feel jealous or the need to sabotage it.  I guess you could say that it may have been a case of ‘out of site – out of mind’.
  • Through educating our son and by making light of incidents that occurred when his peers were around my daughter’s antics simply became the norm in our household. His peers reached the stage of not batting an eye at her unusual behaviour because we didn’t.  She is on the autism spectrum / PDA, this is typical behaviour for a child with PDA, it is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of because, for PDA this is ‘typical’.
  • As both of our children matured and anxieties lowered family life became much easier to manage and could then naturally involve more family times as a whole unit.
  • My son is now 18 years old and he has become part of the support network around our daughter and is able to look back on his childhood with happy memories despite the unique circumstances and difficulties that he faced growing up.

For more information about PDA please visit The PDA Society and The PDA Resource



About janesherwin

I am the parent of a child diagnosed with Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome. My hopes and aims are to raise awareness of this complex Autism Spectrum Condition presentation.
This entry was posted in 3. Strategies, Understanding, Resources, Discussion and More, Siblings, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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