An Introduction to Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

Highlighting some helpful resources for SENCOs and other school staff supporting children and young people with SEND, here the PDA Society help you understand what Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is, and how to respond. 

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is best understood as a profile on the autism spectrum, or one way in which autism may be expressed.

In a school environment, PDA may not ‘look like’ autism and traditional approaches may not work …

We thought Zoe may be autistic but her needs were very different to other autistic pupils we had supported in school before, and none of our usual approaches helped. Searching for answers led us to PDA. Seeing Zoe through this lens enabled us to truly understand her and successfully adapt our practices by building trust and embracing a flexible and collaborative approach. – Zoe’s teacher

So if you have a student whose presentation is hard to understand, who might not respond to conventional approaches and whose behaviours may differ considerably between home and school, it may be worth exploring whether PDA could be an underlying factor.

The PDA Society has a useful 20 minute video introduction to PDA, which you can click below to view.

There is also a helpful page for teaching professionals linking to further resources including case studies and best practice guidelines.

Access the resources here

The Autism Education Trust has also produced a set of guidelines on the distinctive clinical and educational needs of children with PDA.

View the guidelines here.


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