Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a complex presentation of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which provokes an anxiety driven need to be in control and avoid the demands and expectations of others and of everyday life. Children with PDA are often misunderstood and seen as naughty or defiant because of their extreme behaviour and autism isn’t always recognised because they appear to have much better social communication and interaction skills than other others on the spectrum.

The strategies used to support a child with PDA are very specific and different to traditional parenting methods and the strategies used to support other spectrum conditions so correct identification, diagnosis and recognition are essential. *

All behaviour is communication of a need, in all children, but it’s especially important to understand that a child with PDA cannot help their need for control, their brain is hard wired to respond this way no matter how irrational it may seem to others and the strategies they need to cope with everyday life reflect this.

The PDA Society and The National Autistic Society websites provide a wealth of information about PDA including defining features, characteristics, assessment, diagnosis, support, strategies and more. And we found this article by Phil Christie an extremely helpful introduction.

I wrote this for the lovely Jodie at Autism with lots of love and affection to share on her blog during Autism Awareness Month and it explains our journey to PDA.

* PDA isn’t well known by society and here in the UK there are a limited number of healthcare professionals and clinicians who understand it and diagnose it within the NHS but it is a very real condition. First identified by Prof Elizabeth Newson in the 1980s, PDA has since been (and continues to be) widely studied and researched by academics, professionals, institutions and organisations and has been the subject of a number of peer reviewed journal articles and papers. Autism Education Trust has published specific guidelines for children with PDA as part of their National Autism Standards for educational settings, which was written by Phil Christie and is supported by Department of Education. The National Autistic Society has recognised PDA as a behaviour profile within the autism spectrum and there’s hope that the idea of a ‘PDA profile’ should lead to improved diagnosis which is explained here.