Alternative perspectives on PDA


Alternative perspectives on PDA

The PDA Society’s current position, based on research, clinical evidence and lived experience, is that PDA is best understood as a profile on the autism spectrum.

However it’s important to acknowledge the alternative perspectives on PDA that are currently evident.

These relate to the usefulness of the construct, the use of terminology and PDA’s possible relationship to other conditions; and they all seek to further understanding and improve outcomes.

Below are some of the alternative perspectives.

  • The use of the term PDA is unnecessary and unhelpful because all assessments should pick up on all traits and be able to make appropriate recommendations that are helpful.
  • The use of the term PDA causes division within the autistic community who, for the most part, are opposed to any sub-typing of autism.
  • When looking from an autistic perspective, PDA is ‘rational’ and nature’s answer to over-conformity (Milton), thus the term is inappropriate because it pathologises natural behaviours.
  • Oppositional Defiance Disorder could be diagnosed as a co-occurring condition alongside autism as an alternative to using the term PDA (Green et al). PDA could be described instead by Attachment Disorder, Personality Disorder or Trauma. PDA could be particularly associated with ADHD (Egan) and could exist outside of autism. There are overlaps in characteristics and diagnostic criteria which can make it difficult to ‘unpick’ exactly what’s underlying complex presentations – please see Identifying PDA for more information on this.
  • The notion of PDA has gathered ground due to social media and parental pressure and puts the emphasis on the individual not the wider environment/interactions with others (Green).
  • PDA is a pragmatic shorthand but without firm foundations, in a similar way to how Asperger’s Syndrome and the female autism phenotype didn’t identify new forms of autism but instead helped highlight previously misunderstood and missed groups (Sanchez)

Some of these perspectives were shared at the Research Meeting hosted by the PDA Society in January 2019 and at the recent Participatory Autism Research Collective meeting (recordings/presentations from this are due to be shared).

The perspectives underpinning the PDA Society’s position are well documented elsewhere on our website and in the many published papers.