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Pathologogical Demand Avoidance

Pathological Demand Avoidance.

What a lovely name…. I much prefer a persistent drive for autonomy.

I’ve been asked by several people to write a post about PDA, as I have two children with a demand avoidant profile and a demand avoidant profile myself, I suppose I should’ve done it by now.

So, here goes…

There’s a lot of disagreement regarding what is or isn’t PDA….

The PDA society defines it as a distinct autistic profile that has additional differences.

• have a need for control which is often anxiety related

• are driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations (including things that they want to do or enjoy) to an extreme extent

• tend to use approaches that are ‘social in nature' in order to avoid demands

• present with many of the ‘key features’ of PDA rather than just one or two

• tend not to respond to conventional parenting, teaching or support approaches

Many people are concerned with defining PDA, some think trauma is a huge contributing factor, some think unless there is passive early development then it’s not ‘real PDA’, some think PDA isn’t unique to autistic experience at all….

This is very dangerous …. It reeks of high/low functioning, divide and conquer and if you heard my favourite person (sarcasm) Simon Baron-Cohen on the radio this morning banging on about genetics and subgroups of autism you will see why the last thing we need right now is anything else dividing the community! …..

Regardless of what you think PDA is and isn’t the important thing to remember is that the persistent drive for autonomy does exist!

I hear constantly that we can’t use ‘typical autism strategies’ for those with a PDA profile…. Here’s a thought…


When we look at suicide rates, alexithymia, interoceptive difference, masking, burnout etc I can’t help but think that if we allowed autistic children (and adults) the autonomy to follow their instinct and listen to themselves we would dramatically reduce poor mental health for the community as a whole…

It's not rocket science, is it?

So instead of “we can’t use autism strategies with PDA’ers” it should be that we are adopting PDA strategies universally!

Hope that helps?

Much Love

Tanya <3

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