Panda Ambassador Press Release



In readiness for PDA Action Day on 15th May, the PDA Society is introducing a giant panda as its new ambassador. By symbolising one of the key points about PDA – that individuals with PDA need very specific support in order to thrive and may otherwise have an increased likelihood of poor outcomes, just like giant pandas – it is hoped that the giant panda concept will help everyone to understand the needs of those with PDA, to help raise awareness, increase acceptance and be united on what actions to take in order to be most effective.

PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) is part of the autism spectrum. Individuals who present with a diagnostic profile of PDA are driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. They share difficulties with others on the autism spectrum in terms of social aspects of interaction and communication, together with some repetitive behaviour patterns. However people with PDA often seem to have better social understanding than others on the spectrum, which means some of their difficulties may be less obvious at first.

The recommended support strategies for individuals with PDA are very specific and very different to those for people with other autism profiles. In place of firm boundaries and the use of rewards, consequences and praise, individuals with PDA respond better to an approach based on negotiation, collaboration and flexibility.

The PDA Society has been using giant pandas in its training courses for parents and teachers for some time to help reinforce this message. Just like individuals with PDA, giant pandas:
  • need very specific accommodations in order to thrive and may often suffer without appropriate support
  • are extremely sensitive to their environments
  • are very vulnerable
  • show how an integrated approach to their care – combining science, a genuine commitment from multiple parties and community engagement – is essential for success

And just as giant pandas can thrive with suitable support (their numbers have risen by 17% in the last decade according to the WWF) so too can individuals with PDA. Individuals with PDA respond better to a less direct and more collaborative approach which may include:
  • Being very flexible and creative
  • Reducing the number of demands where possible
  • Using indirect language, humour and games to obscure demands
  • Depersonalising requests (e.g. using written suggestions or attributing reasons for requests to other factors such as health & safety)
  • Giving choices and using negotiation
  • Choosing priorities – which demands are necessary and which can be left till later
  • Using indirect praise and affirmation
  • Exploring different ways of reducing and managing anxiety, including helping individuals to feel more in control

“Time and again we hear that individuals with PDA are being misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Using inappropriate support strategies for individuals with PDA can be ineffective, counter-productive and even, in some cases, damaging,” explains Paula Webb, Chair of the PDA Society.

“PDA Action Day is all about increasing acceptance of this form of autism and enabling people involved with PDA – whether they are individuals with PDA, parents, other family members, carers, teachers, clinicians or social care workers – to take action. Top priority is to ensure that properly targeted support strategies are in place. We hope that our new ambassador will help to get this message across in an approachable way.”

15th May 2017 is the fifth consecutive year that the PDA Society has been organising a day to focus on Pathological Demand Avoidance. Previously called PDA Awareness Day this year sees a repositioning as PDA Action Day to encourage everyone to take some steps or make some changes to better support those with this autism profile.

Download a copy of the panda to use yourself

We’d like to thank the Lighter Side of PDA Facebook group where the giant panda idea originated for allowing us to use this concept, Looker Marketing Communications for supporting the PDA Society in the creation of the panda ambassador artwork and Sally Cat’s PDA Page for creating an animated GIF for us to share on social media.
The PDA Society was first established in 1997 by parents of children with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), an autism spectrum condition. The PDA Society became a registered charity in January 2016. We provide information, support and training for parents, carers, teachers and individuals with PDA.

An explanation of the different profiles within Autistic Spectrum Disorders

A series of detailed case studies about individuals with PDA

A recent study in Hertfordshire provides a snapshot of how poorly parents feel they are supported by local services that don’t/can’t/won’t recognise PDA as a profile within ASD:



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