Last Saturday night we had a takeaway – only it involved having our friends pet.
Just for the night it was our very own hamster sleepover. We even prepared our own convenience food of broccoli and carrots to snack on.
It was actually a birthday present for our PDA’er who turned seven a few weeks ago (quick link here).
When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday she said a hamster. Well she said that or a dog but she knew it was less likely to be agreed – we are still negotiating on that one.
Again, we have had a few discussions about pets not being birthday presents as they take more care than the first five minutes she would be excited for.
If it was something I could manage I would have agreed to it but with middle sibling wanting one too, plus a bulldozing toddler to the mix, I just knew I would be overwhelmed and putting out even more fires than I am already!
So on her birthday my lovely friend gave my child an imaginative present to lessen her ‘pet’ disappointment.
As she opened the parcel there was a book on hamsters and a ticket entitling PDA’er to a sleepover with Hank the hamster the following weekend.
It worked – she was beyond excited!
I think this is not only an example of how flexible and creative parenting needs to be with a PDA child, but how it also requires support from those closest around you.
So it was a very long wait over those seven nights – she can not cope with the demand of time or waiting; this is one of her major triggers which usually always result in extreme meltdowns.
So to distract from the impending waiting time (as well as maximising on the learning opportunity it was giving her) our home volunteer helped to create a park area for Hank the hamster to play in:
The imagination and craftsmanship that goes into her work (well in activities she is interested in) is often far beyond her years.
I write that sentence and yet she is only just managing entering a classroom – the juxtaposition between able and disabled is so extreme.
The unique relationship they are beginning to form is incredible and the volunteer has the natural ability to follow PDA’ers lead whilst subtly navigating the way they move forward.
It does not mean she gives away the control but uses the right language to be able to introduce demands without PDA’er being aware of them.
It’s an art I can assure you and this person has got it down to a T.
Secondly, she does not aim to find mutual ground, but instead allows herself to become absorbed into my daughter’s interests.
She has been coming once a week into our home for many months and only recently my daughter moved forward to give her a cuddle.
There have been so many occasions when the impulse was there to reach out but her body freezes.
Inside she is still a very frightened little girl with a disability that makes her unable to trust how she interprets the world around her.
So this particular morning my PDA’er was fraught with anxiety and wouldn’t come down the stairs for nearly an hour.
The volunteer knew about the birthday treat and brought up in conversation about previous children who made their pets a special park area to play in.
This quickly grabbed her imagination enough to distract from the anxiety overload she was experiencing and ran away with the idea as if she had invented it herself.
She was so proud with her finished piece and she gave it to Hank’s family as a parting gift when he returned home. This was a way of controlling the transition she would ordinarily not be able to cope with.
I really do feel indebted to those people around us who rally around to keep us going. Without them, I often feel like our delicate family would have broken even further.
So we definitely enjoyed our stay with Hank at the pet sleepover. His ears were up, he looked relaxed and he had an abundance of cuddles.
Thank you to Hank’s family for giving us this opportunity to have a different kind of take away – we really do love you lots! 😍
To read more about how pets can help a child with PDA, here is a recent blogpost from The Learning Curve about ‘Pets, Anxiety and PDA – Harnessing Hamster Power!’
For further info on PDA – here is a great blogpost from Steph’s Two Girls on ‘Does my child have Pathological Demand Avoidance?’
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