Information & resources for PDA teens

It’s sometimes difficult to work out what information online is useful or even true – often hearing from other PDA individuals themselves is one of the best sources of information. This page has lots of links about PDA for teenagers and young people. Whether you prefer to get your information on YouTube, on social media or whether you prefer reading, there is hopefully something here to get you started.

What is PDA?

Autism is dimensional, this means that it varies a lot from one person to another. The PDA profile describes one way in which autism can present. This video gives a really quick introduction to PDA and explains all of its key features.

PDAers (sometimes called ‘people with a PDA profile’ by professionals) experience intense emotions and mood swings and find everyday activities difficult, often feeling a need to avoid them. ‘Demand avoidance’ involves not being able to do certain things at certain times, either for yourself or others, and also refers to the things we do in order to avoid demands.

With PDA, demands of all types, including things you might not think of as a demand and things you might want to do, can trigger an automatic threat or anxiety response and a feeling of panic can rapidly set in. Being told to do something or wanting or needing to do something often means that you then ‘just can’t’. PDAers often describe it as a neurological tug of war between brain, heart and body.

“It’s like you’re gaming and you have the main controller, and then sometimes someone yanks that controller away from you and you lose control and feel panicky,” – Mollie

PDAers often use ‘social strategies’ as a way of avoiding demands. This includes things like distraction (changing the subject), procrastinating (saying “I’ll do it later”), excusing yourself (giving reasons as to why you can’t), withdrawing into role play or fantasy.

If these approaches don’t enable the demand to be avoided, panic quickly sets in. This isn’t a deliberate choice, it’s an instinctive flight/ fight/freeze/fawn response and is best understood as a panic attack.

“A lot of people with PDA such as myself often use what is known as a mask to hide emotions and avoid demands. I usually mask without even thinking about it since I do it so often and I’m so used to it. Masking can make PDAers appear socially advanced and comfortable, but under the surface they do lack some understanding. Understandably masking for hours every day can be extremely draining and make PDAers such as myself depressed as we are not showing our true selves.” – James

There are lots of ways to make demands more manageable. Here are suggestions for Self-help coping strategies which have been put together by adult PDAers and information about helpful approaches which can be shared with others to help them understand how best to support PDAers.

Our Workplace adjustments for PDA page also has tips on adjustments to workplaces and work patterns to accommodate a PDA profile.

There are a huge number of strengths and positive qualities that often also accompany PDA. These are some of the qualities PDA adults used to describe themselves, collated from responses in two Facebook groups.

Links and resources

Online content by PDAers

Teens who talk about PDA

Adults who talk about PDA

Online groups
Books about PDA

Fiction

Tally series by Libby Scott (teenage PDAer) and Rebecca Westcott with diary entries based on Libby’s experiences:

Underdogs series by Chris Bonnello (autistic advocate) with a neurodiverse teenage character set, including a lead PDA character:

Non-fiction

For older teens:

PDA and other topics

Gender and sexuality

 For older teens: 

Other autism links and resources (not PDA-specific)

Books 

Mental health