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Pathological Demand Avoidance

What is Pathological Demand Avoidance?

PDA is now considered to be part of the autism spectrum with similarities to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, but is also significantly different. Individuals with PDA share difficulties with others on the autism spectrum in social aspects of interaction, communication and imagination. However, the central difficulty for people with PDA is the way they are driven to avoid demands and expectations. This is because they have an anxiety based need to be in control.

Individuals with PDA are generally manipulative socially, highlighting its main difference with the other Autistic spectrum disorders.

The following criteria are used to decide whether a child has Pathological Demand Avoidance:

  • Passive in nature during their first year e.g. ignores toys, appears passive, usually delayed milestones for development.
  • Strategies of avoidance are normally socially manipulative.
  • Performs everything on their own terms, resists and avoids normal demands. May be incorrectly described as a 'difficult phase' as this behaviour will continue in to adulthood
  • Lacks a sense of responsibility, appears very naughty. Praise and punishment are normally ineffective.
  • Lack self-identity.
  • Rapid changes in the intensity and modality of emotions.
  • Tendency to be impulsive with a strong desire to be in control of situation.
  • Enjoys role-play, with the interest in fantasy normally continuing in to adulthood.
  • May frequently appear on the edge of violence.
  • Complete lack of normal social boundaries.
  • Early language delay. When speech has developed, its content is usually odd.
  • Eye contact may be over-strong with vivacious facial expressions.
  • Obsessive behaviour.
  • Neurological involvement - signs may include clumsiness, awkwardness, or never crawling as a toddler.

One of the main symptoms of PDA is the urgent desire to avoid the ordinary everyday demands placed on them, to a pathological degree that is not normal laziness. As they will have developed social skills it is common that these skills will allow the individual to use excuses; distraction attempts or controlling the situation by refusing to speak or by making noises to drown out the other person’s voice.

Trying to keep a low profile within a school setting, unless they receive unwanted attention, which may lead to them becoming disruptive and aggressive. Individuals do not choose to behave in these manners; it is a result of their inability to cope with what they perceived as the stress of every day demands.

To arrange an assessment with one of our therapists please contact us by emailing or calling 0330 088 6693.

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