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PDA Autism & Radical Unschooling

Within the autistic community, I'm recognized as a PDA'er, representing my distinct facet of autism: Persistent Drive for Autonomy (or the more pathologized version: Pathological Demand Avoidance). Being a PDA'er means societal norms, social rules, and hierarchies baffle me. My natural inclination is towards anarchy, as authority figures elude my comprehension.

It's not surprising that, as a parent, I've leaned heavily towards authoritative/gentle parenting, delving further into Radical Unschooling and non-coercive approaches. Conventional schooling conditions children to obey authority. I experienced this firsthand, and time spent in traditional schools reveals this reality. It aligns with the fact that society (e.g., the colonized world) heavily relies on obedience and fear of punishment to function.

My aversion to school is rooted in being compelled to learn subjects I had no interest in, surrounded by people I wouldn't have chosen as companions. Upon becoming a parent, I aspired to grant my children maximal freedom. Shedding the authoritarian baggage from my schooling and upbringing took years. Despite knowing, as a PDA'er, that authority is nonsensical, I found myself inclined to control my children.

Initially, Radical Unschooling sounded like permissive parenting or neglect. It took considerable time to realize I was discerning this through my own conditioning. Essentially, Radical Unschooling offers children extensive freedom, permitting them to learn and live as they wish—with or without formal schooling. It means refraining from coercing children unless in exceptional circumstances. While interpretations differ, the essence remains consistent.

Is my household characterized by anarchy, with my children at the helm? Not entirely. While anarchy exists in some respects (I hope so, at least), it fosters a collaborative environment where we cooperate. Anarchy isn't synonymous with chaos; it's a misconception that assumes people require control due to inherent negativity. I place trust in my children; they don't necessitate control.

As a PDA'er, Radical Unschooling is the sole educational and parenting method that resonates with me. I'm aware of my children's inherent goodness, kindness, and altruism. I refrain from coercing them to conform, just as I resist being compelled to conform. In moments of necessity, we engage in collaboration and communication.

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