What exactly is PDA?
PDA stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance. PDA is a type of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and those with PDA are said to avoid everyday demands due to a high level of anxiety.
Is it a new thing?
It was first identified by a lady called Professor Elizabeth Newson in the 1980s. She studied a group of children who were similar to each other, and who shared some of the characteristics of autism but who were different. Although that was over 30 years ago, that's still relatively recent in medical terms, and in terms of how long it takes research to filter through to the medical journals.
How do you identify it?
There are many pointers; the child may have difficulty following everyday demands, such as 'brush your teeth' or 'put your socks and shoes on' or they may have difficulty with taking a different route to school. They may want to visit a certain place, but if told they have to, will refuse. These are just some simple examples; constant avoidance of many activities and issues rather than an occasional refusal is what can set this group apart.
Doesn't it just mean your child is naughty?
No. There's a phrase which many feel explains this well - the child 'can't help won't'. In other words, they can't help the fact that they won't do something. It's not just because they don't want to, it's because their anxiety levels are so high that they struggle to.
How do you manage children with PDA?
There are many strategies to use; the main thing to remember is that what works one day may not work the next. You have to have a range of strategies ready to use but be flexible and ready to change your approach at any time.
Be careful with your choice of words; indirect language works best. Never say 'no', but instead, say 'maybe tomorrow' or 'now is not a great time but we can think about when might be good for that'. Avoid demands and instead offer choices - preferably where the one you want to happen is the most appealing option. Use humour wherever possible, and referring to a third party who has made the rules rather than yourself can sometimes work.
Aren't you just 'pandering' to them?
No. These children are not children who can be parented in a typical manner; reward and consequence systems do not work for them. It's not about them wanting to comply or not, it's about them being unable to. This could be for a multitude of reasons, from sensory issues to an overload of demands.
Anything else I should know?
For lots more information and links to research information please visit the PDA Society (national charity for PDA) website at www.pdasociety.org.uk.
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