A PDA profile – progress in diagnosing PDA

An update on the National Autistic Society’s website and a new article in SEN magazine suggests that the idea of a ‘PDA profile’ should lead to improved diagnosis.

Paediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists are largely governed by the diagnostic manuals which list disorders and diseases and dictate how they should be defined. The introduction of a new version of the American diagnostic manual (DSM-5) in 2013 has created some changes in the way Autism is diagnosed by many clinicians in the UK.

It is now increasingly the case that individuals receive a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), instead of a diagnosis of ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ or classic ‘autism’, for example, to the upset of some. However, it seems that the change may actually be a blessing for those of us interested in PDA, as it is no longer necessary to persuade clinicians of the value of having a specific, separate diagnosis of PDA.

We are seeing diagnoses such as ‘ASD with a PDA profile’ or ‘ASD characterised by extreme demand avoidance’ or ‘ASD sub-group PDA’ being used increasingly. This means that the underlying Autism diagnosis is explicitly recognised and then the description of a specific profile enables the correct management strategies to be understood and deployed. There is also an International diagnostic manual (more commonly used in the UK) which is due to be revised next year, and this is expected to follow suit, cementing the approach.

​It is hoped that in areas where the usefulness of a PDA ‘label’ is still being debated, this change in emphasis will now enable clinicians to help those who have PDA to get appropriate support.