Pathological demand avoidance

Pathological demand avoidance (PDA) is thought to be part of the autistic spectrum. It is different from other forms of autism as people will avoid demands made by others, due to their high anxiety levels, because they feel that they are not in control.

Children with PDA tend to have significantly better social communication and interaction skills than other people on the autistic spectrum. They will also often adopt the behaviours of other people, typically someone in authority – such as acting like a teacher with other children.

A child with PDA will avoid everyday demands made by other people, due to their high anxiety levels. PDA can also cause a child to be controlling and dominating, especially when feeling anxious that they are not in charge. However, when in control of a situation, a child with PDA can appear very charming and at ease.

In our experience, children with PDA require support to be able to achieve to their potential. Support is also needed for social communication and social skills as children with PDA will tend to try to dominate in all situations in order to avoid anxiety.

A child with PDA will have special educational needs (SEN). In some cases, SEN additional support may be adequate, whereas in others an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) will be necessary.


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