Super Shamlal – Learning and Living with Pathological Demand Avoidance ISBN: 9781787750562
Published by Jessica Kingsley, 2020
Shamlal is a little girl camel who lives in an oasis in the desert with her loving parents and auntie, but when she is very young, she develops problems: when faced with her parents’ requests, she often becomes rude and very difficult, and her first word is ‘no’. The story is told by Shamlal herself, and she explains that a sense of panic overcomes her and she is unable to move. Her response to the panic attacks is rudeness – real insolence and bossiness. This makes her father angry and her mother sad, and they can’t understand what has happened to their beautiful little daughter. Other people think she is being selfish and stubborn, and that her parents are not strict enough. When she gets to school, the same things happen, and she even kicks and spits when faced with a teacher’s request. She is unkind to her best friend, Jenna, thinking she is being funny. Shamlal knows it is wrong to do these things, but she can’t help herself, and in her misery she begins to play jokes on classmates. Her parents are at their wits end, and Shamlal runs away. It is Grandfather who finds her in the desert, scared and lonely and wanting to go home, and she tells him that she thinks her ‘brain is hobbled’, that when people ask her to do something, she gets a panic attack and has to lash out. Understanding Grandfather says that perhaps imagining you are a super camel with magic powers might help, and together they run back to the oasis as fast as they can. Shamlal’s teacher suggests an educational psychologist, and after a consultation with a nice lady, who says she thinks Shamlal might have PDA or Pathological Demand Avoidance, things begin to change. With special help at home and at school, Shamlal begins to learn how to control her ‘different brain’ with coping strategies. This lovely story with beautiful crayon pictures of Shamlal and her family is a wonderful resource for families coping with PDA. Often part of the autism spectrum, it has ‘some features that are distinct from autism’. Children ‘feel compelled to resist normal, everyday demands to an extreme degree, as a way of managing severe anxiety’. These words from the Introduction explain succinctly the problem families must deal with. With lots of help for parents and teachers, the book is a real tour de force and will be beneficial to all those who are trying to understand a little-known condition. The charming and colourful story will support the child to feel less alone. Available from Amazon, from book shops and from the publisher: www.jkp.com.