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Top 5 autism tips for professionals: supporting pupils with PDA

Ruth Fidler, an Education Consultant and author specialising in pathological demand avoidance (PDA) and complex autism, gives us her top 5 tips on supporting pupils with PDA.

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Author: Ruth Fidler

Top 5 tips

Supporting pupils with PDA

1. Collaborate with the child, offering approaches that recognise their strengths; with families, recognising the particular issues that they face; and with colleagues in school and other agencies so as to have a co-ordinated approach.

2. Prioritise which issues to deal with at any given time - collaborate with others on deciding what the priorities are and which strategies will be used to achieve them.

3. Promote wellbeing – demand avoidance is driven by raised anxiety so reducing anxiety, promoting positive self-esteem, self-awareness and good social relationships is key.

4. Use indirect approaches which are creative, individualised and flexible, and which can be adapted to synchronise anxiety and demand.

5. Allow additional processing time – as with other people with autism it is beneficial to allow extra time to process incoming instructions, social and sensory information. For people with PDA it can also be beneficial to allow extra time to process their anxiety and sensitivity to demands. Giving time and space to do this will facilitate better wellbeing as well as better co-operation.

These top tips are meant only as a very general guide to what to think about. You can find further information on this subject below.

Further reading

Gore-Langton E & Frederickson N (2015) Mapping the educational experiences of children with pathological demand avoidance. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs. doi: 10.1111/1471-3802.12081

O'Nions E, Viding E, Greven CU, Ronald A & Happé F (2013) Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA): exploring the behavioural profile. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 8, 538-544. 

O'Nions, E., Christie, P., Gould, J., Viding, E. & Happé, F. (2014) Development of the 'Extreme Demand Avoidance Questionnaire' (EDA-Q): Preliminary observations on a trait measure for Pathological Demand Avoidance. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55, 758-768.

O'Nions E, Gould J, Christie P, Gillberg C, Viding E. & Happé F. Identifying features of 'Pathological Demand Avoidance' using the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO). 2015 European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

O'NIONS, E., QUINLAN, E., SAN JOSE CACERES, A., TULIP, H., VIDING, E. & HAPPÉ, F. (submitted) Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA): an examination of the behavioural features using a semi-structured interview.

Gore-Langton E & Frederickson N (2015) Mapping the educational experiences of children with pathological demand avoidance. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs

Proposed research by Liz O’Nions and Institute of Psychiatry team in 2016 is to look into what management approaches are reported to be helpful in PDA by parents and teacher.

Useful weblinks

Date added: 09 March 2016