‘Autism Spectrum Condition’ (ASC, previously ASD (disorder)) is an umbrella term in the UK gathering within it other particular autism profiles, or presentations of autism with their own nuances and quirks. Pathological Demand Avoidance is one of these profiles. I’ve been reading up about it, and about other’s experience of it because although I’m well aware every single child is unique there is something about this particular profile that resonates. It makes sense of some of the dynamics we see at home.
‘PDA is now widely understood to be part of the autism spectrum. Children who present with this particular diagnostic profile are driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. This is rooted in an anxiety-based need to be in control. Aspects of the profile may be variable at different times and in different places.’ PDA Society
It is not yet used as a diagnostic profile in every part of the country, it depends on the NHS district you fall into. So over the last few years I have been keen to find out what I can about it because I have found it’s the most insightful and helpful profile for us to gain better understanding of behaviours we see, and to learn strategies that support. As well as the social and communication differences, and the sensory differences common to autism spectrum conditions PDA’s particular characteristics are:
The distinctive features of a demand avoidant profile include:
- resists and avoids the ordinary demands of life [in the extreme, and with passionate determination as if life depends on it]
- uses social strategies as part of avoidance, eg distracting, giving excuses
- appears sociable, but lacks understanding
- experiences excessive mood swings and impulsivity
- appears comfortable in role play and pretence [I would add, only on her own terms which makes shared play hard. Also that role play is often used as a coping strategy when demands cannot be avoided]
- displays obsessive behaviour that is often focused on other people. (from National Autistic Society)
‘Individuals with PDA can be controlling and dominating, especially when they feel anxious and are not in control of their environment. They can also be very affectionate, charming, sociable and chatty, when they are calm and feel safe.’ PDA Society, about PDA
I see many unique strengths…
- fascinated by people, and quite passionate about getting to know what makes them tick.
- observant and detailed
- thinking outside the box and problem solving (seen in the many amazing strategies used to avoid demands!)
- feels deeply
- desire to get things right
I also see such extreme anxiety about almost every aspect of living life in a world that seems confusing and relentlessly, overwhelmingly demanding. I see a need for understanding, and loving support.