Over the last school year, (I’m writing this in 2019), the term PDA has been cropping up more and more in my involvement with pupils who have an ASD diagnosis. At the start of the year, I didn’t have a clue what it meant (apart from the aversion to a demand) or teaching strategies to help a pupil who may have PDA as part or their Autism profile. So I thought I would take the time to jot down what I have learnt and useful tips and links I have come across.

What does PDA stand for?

PDA stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance and according to the PDA Society can be a diagnosis of part of the PDA profile. Where I am currently based, PDA is not currently diagnosed but we have started seeing it referenced in pupils medical reports from Educational Psychologists.

What are the signs of PDA?

From what I have observed in my classroom and having researched from the internet, the following can be observed:

  • The avoidance is innate, it is not a choice (this refers to the pathological term).
  • Extreme anxiety to any demand placed on the individual – this includes the everyday demands of ‘normal’ routines. It also includes demands a person may make towards themselves.
  • Avoidance of demand to the extreme, even if they want to do it.

How can we Educators help?

AS teachers and/or teaching assistants there are many things we can do that will have a positive impact on a learner with PDA. Here are some of the following I have implemented in my ASD CARE Base:

  • Avoid confrontations. In my classroom we use the word ‘we’ instead of ‘you. We work diligently to disguise our expectations.
  • Introducing the Zones of Regulation to help learners self regulate their emotions. This has been a game changer and is worth EVERY penny!
  • Be flexible! I cannot stress this enough. We adjust tasks, demands, everyday happenings to help reduce the anxiety our learners maybe facing. Also we need to remember what works today may not work tomorrow.
  • Establish non-negotiable ground rules that must always be adhered to. For example, in my class, pupils HAVE to come to school but the DO NOT HAVE to enter the classroom. Though what we find once they are in school, after 20-30 minutes, once the anxiety has subsided they often go into class of their own accord.

Where can I get further information and or training from?

My little post is a quick overview and is by no means meant to train you. I do though highly recommend that teachers educate themselves further on this area. For more comprehensive training please visit the PDA site and watch their FREE webinars.

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