I’m only just starting to learn about Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). Although I’ve heard of the term over the years, it’s much more common in the UK than it is in Australia. From what I know about it, such a diagnosis would seem quite fitting to my son who has a diagnosis of Autism, ADHD, ODD and Dyslexia.

The main characteristic that describes a person with PDA is that they ‘avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent.’

What we, as parents or teachers, see as a basic question or request, the PDAer will see as a demand, this demand will fuel their anxiety and can cause them to do use different strategies to avoid the request.

The PDAer wants to be in control of every situation. When they receive a request, they perceive it as a demand. They feel that their power has been taken away. Their anxiety then is heightened and they can resort quickly to shouting, swearing, hitting etc. in order to maintain control of the situation.

They are master manipulators, using numerous tactics as part of avoiding the situation or demand. These tactics can range from distracting, offering excuses, delaying, withdrawing to fantasy or drowning out requests with noise.

A child with PDA can often appear social, but they may lack a depth of understanding. They find it difficult to adapt their behaviour in social situations and don’t understand how their behaviour can affect others emotionally.

This child can have mood swings and be impulsive, and can go from one emotion to the opposite in a matter of seconds with no warning to others. This can often be a response to perceived expectations, which may even relate to expectations they have on themselves.

They may like to role play or take on the persona of another individual, often an authority figure. They withdraw to fantasy when reality becomes difficult to deal with.

The PDAer has obsessive behaviour in particular in relation to people. They can really love some people to an obsessive capacity and really hate others to an extreme.

Pathological Demand Avoidance is referred to as an autism spectrum disorder, however to my knowledge it does not form part of the diagnostic criteria in Australia.

If you’re like myself, and find yourself a parent of a child with PDA, you might wish to do some research of your own. I’ve recently been introduced to a YouTuber and author, Harry Thompson. Harry is 28 and was diagnosed with PDA in his mid to late teens. He has an extremely comprehensive understanding of what it is like to have PDA and what that has meant to him over the years. I’d invite you to take a look at his YouTube videos https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUOrWY2lW8NL4vfYslkGgLg/videos.

As I said at the beginning, this is all very new to me, but it is really helping me to understand my son and why he behaves the way he does. I’ll continue to learn more about it and will happily share my learning journey with you in future blogs.


SASI Guest Parent Blogger

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