This post is sponsored by JKP Publishers*
I have a lot of neurodivergence in my life and I can’t pin all of it on my husband. It comes in various styles - dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, sensory processing disorder and there’s a bright stripe of demand avoidance in there too. I think that bit is my donation. So it was with much interest that I read PDA by PDAers. I was really looking forward to understanding more about the condition and maybe even pursuing a formal diagnosis. I’d hoped that this book would be an illumination into the processes which can make perfectly reasonable people appear to self sabotage.
This book is compiled by Sally Cat. She knows her subject, and is an academic of long standing. I was hoping for great things. However, in this age of social media, it’s highly likely that if you’re affected by PDA, you might have popped it into the search bit of Facebook, and then tripped over most of the contributors. And that’s it in a nutshell - this is largely a compilation of the threads from a Facebook page. Now, Facebook threads don’t always end up the way they start out, there are segues and rows and meanderings. For the most part these are edited out of this book, but essentially it’s rather like overhearing a conversation. You’re the audience but this is written as though you’re a player, and there’s a reasonable chance, if you are a PDA parent, you’ve read it all anyway.
If you’ve read around in PDA, there are several big names and they appear in here too - Riko the blogger, Julia Daunt, instrumental in the foundations of PDA definitions and diagnosis. There are also useful discussions around whether PDA exists in its own right outside of the autistic spectrum, or whether it should remain as a subset of autism. PDA is harder to define than other neurodivergent conditions and varies in its intensity so perhaps diagnosing it on the basis of the presence of a comorbidity isn’t as odd as it seems.
There is also a very useful positive emphasis on the achievements of people with PDA, which given the way in which PDA can restrict the lives of those with it, is essential reading.
The book outlines real life examples of the the ways in which PDA manifests itself, but as it’s written in the form of compiled threads, it is very hard to find the pertinent information. And if you’re already demand avoidant, it feels like it’s very hard to read!
That’s not to say that there aren’t useful insights, because absolutely there are, and with it being effectively peer written, there is a freshness and immediacy to the voices. Individual behaviours are explained, along with some useful strategies for those who have demand avoidance traits. If you’re into self help for neurodivergence, this is useful.
Whilst there are a wide selection of clearly closely researched statistics at the back, you may find they are largely inaccessible unless you have a firm understanding of the foundations of stats. Not everyone knows what a confidence interval is, yet I couldn’t find an explanation of it, or indeed, of what the statistics actually mean in the real lives of people with PDA and those who love them.
In the very first paragraph the author describes how she felt demand avoidance just finishing the book. This resonated with me enormously - this review was 95% done weeks ago and yet it’s taken me days just to complete it. If you already have a good understanding of PDA and are looking for the solidarity that comes with shared experience then this is ideal.
There are some highly entertaining graphics which help encapsulate the points made, and certainly aid anyone flicking through looking for insights. I finished the book hoping that the contributors would write more, and do it in a way that demanded less of the reader in order to access the information. I hope Sally Cat continues!