SEND blog by Hemel Hempstead mum nominated for two BAP awards
Danielle created the blog to raise awareness of a lesser known autistic profile and help other families
A mum who created a blog that focuses on special educational and disability needs (SEND) has been nominated for two awards.
Danielle Jata-Hall, from Bennetts End, Hemel Hempstead, has reached the finals in two categories in the BAPs Awards, which allow SEND bloggers to be recognised for their talents, tales and achievements.
The 40-year-old is mum to daughters 10-year-old Arijana, eight-year-old Amelie and five-year-old Isla.
She created the blog - PDA Parenting - to share her experiences, offer support to other families and raise awareness of a lesser known autistic profile called Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).
PDA is a profile that describes those whose main characteristic is to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent.
Danielle said: "My eldest daughter started to show signs of difficult behaviour when she was four and she was getting misunderstood a lot.
"I did some research and came across PDA and it was describing her, and I knew that was what it was.
"But, it is not really recognised yet, in Herts it's not yet recognised, so can be really difficult
"It described her but we could not get it recognised.
"A few years ago, our MP, Sir Mike Penning, tabled an early day motion to get PDA recognised and better supported after a peaceful march in London that we took part in.
"I wanted to raise awareness of PDA and help others.
"That's where the blog kind of stemmed from, I wanted to make it my mission to raise awareness of PDA and support other children and families who were going through something similar.
"Our focus in writing is to try to give a balanced account of what life is really like and to also improve the outcomes for other families in similar situations.
"Our hope is to educate people working with SEND families so that we can all find better support and understanding, therefore improving the opportunities for young people with SEND.
"We have lived experiences of the challenges and battles that occur from being autistic and misunderstood from the education system."
An individual with PDA will still have the same challenges with navigating social communication and imagination, as well as having quite rigid thinking of routines and thought patterns, but they often have a surface sociability that can mask their lack of understanding underneath.
The overriding key feature is that the individual is driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent – which is always rooted in high levels of anxiety to need to stay in control.
Danielle said: "Understanding PDA as a hidden disability is often our greatest challenge and being blamed or judged often comes with the territory.
"It is difficult to leave the house often and has a huge impact on meeting the needs of the siblings.
"As a parent I have to be creative just to support my daughter to meet everyday demands, using lots of tactics and altering the way I communicate to achieve this without causing distress.
"It is such a balancing act and I have to alter my parenting approach to be more collaborative and give her the feeling of autonomy in order to feel more in control.
"Finding support, using the right strategies and being shown understanding are the three things we need in order to make our situation better.
"I am a single parent and it is difficult for her, and for all of us, and especially difficult for her siblings.
"We are always learning to adapt and everyday is different."
Danielle's blog has reached the finals for two awards at the BAPs Awards, organised by My Family, Our Needs - a place for parents and carers supporting children and young people with additional needs.
Danielle said: "Our blog (PDA Parenting) has reached the finals for two awards and we have been invited to a ceremony in November to find out the winners - it will be hosted by celebrity Matthew Horne (from Gavin and Stacey).
"We are finalists in two categories: Truth about SEND and Educating Education which is something that means a lot to us.
"It's amazing to be recognised as a finalist for these awards, it means what I am doing is helping others and making a difference.
"I have people contacting me and tell me that the advice I have given, or experience I have shared has made a difference to them and helped them and that's what it is about, helping others and making a difference."
Danielle also speaks at conferences to help raise awareness of PDA.