Maddie has been a student at Portfield School for the past 5 years. Alongside her autism, she has Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), which makes daily tasks like brushing your hair, making your food and just taking care of yourself quite hard, because in her eyes, that is a demand.
PDA involves the avoidance of everyday demands and expectations. The strategies that may work for other autistic children may not be as effective for those with a PDA profile.
It can impact the things she really wants to do, like going out with friends. Despite wanting to do it, she can’t because she’s telling herself to do it, describing it as ‘a constant battle of my brain.’
Nevertheless, she enjoys talking, dancing, seeing her friends, and shopping. She also likes working with children and hearing all their unique experiences, having completed work experience with Portfield School’s younger students, and she currently volunteers as a youth leader.
Despite the myth that autistic people don’t want to or can’t make friends, friendship is very important to Maddie.
She says, ‘I love my friends, and most of my friends are like autistic or have ADHD or at least have an understanding.’
Routines can often be important for many autistic people. However, in Maddie’s case, they’re not as effective – she doesn’t thrive off of them. While she does follow certain routines, for the most part routines don’t work with her and every day has to be a bit different - emphasising how everyone’s autism is different.
She continues, ‘We’re not all the same, even if we have the same diagnosis, we’re completely different, even like we’ll have some similarities, but for the most part we’re all different and we all need different support.’
If people took the time to just listen and understand, they would realise that just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it works for others.
Discussing how Autism Unlimited supports her, she says, ‘it’s really adaptable and it’s really helped me, it has really shaped my future.’
‘I’ve gained so much confidence from the help I’ve received and the support.’