Hannah takes on Ben Nevis and wins

Mary, Hannah and Claire all conquered Ben Nevis
Mary, Hannah and Claire all conquered Ben Nevis

A Chirnside girl is setting herself the task of raising awareness of her condition after being diagnosed with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).

Hannah was diagnosed with PDA, which places her on the autism spectrum, in November 2015.

Her syndrome is characterised by swings in mood and impulsivity, as well as extreme anxiety. This made attending school, for example, very difficult for Hannah, before it was decided that she needed 24-hour care.

But recently she has put that kind of experience behind, first by joining a group, The Yard, in Edinburgh, where other children with similar anxieties can play together, and secondly by climbing Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

Hannah, aged 12, made the trek with her mum Mary, dad James - always called Squid by Hannah - and her support worker Claire Gillon, who has been working with Hannah for the last three months.

Also braving the snow on the summit were Hannah’s cherished toys -Jess and Goodall, the gorilla.

“We set off at 7.30 in the morning,” said Mary, “and we were all okay when we got to the halfway point.

“Then, Hannah sits down, and she didn’t want to move, just like any kid, she didn’t want to go up, didn’t want to come down.

“I said to James, to tell her I was making a great big snowman at the top, and then, a little while later -after chatting to everyone she met on the way - we saw her cresting the summit on the snow. It was a fantastic feeling.”

It is another milestone for Hannah in proving her PDA does not define her, coming a year after she was elected Chirnside’s Gala Queen.

“That was amazing,” said mum Mary. “There were a couple of events where we had to bow out with the anxiety, but she’s looking forward to handing over the crown for Civic Week in a few days’ time.

Mary and Hannah are already planning their next trek.

“The plan is the West Highland Way,” said Mary. “We want to do it for charity, for kids like those who visit The Yard, and to keep raising awareness.

“It has been very difficult because PDA is not yet recognised in Scotland. It took a long time for teachers and others to realise that this is not ‘learned behaviour’ that can be untaught on Hannah’s part.

“But she knows that she’s different. She’s not unaware.

“She says to me sometimes, ‘Mum, I don’t need people to understand me, I just need them to love me’.