Case Studies

This series of individual stories is intended to highlight a range of experiences and illustrate what has been particularly helpful or unhelpful for individuals and families.

While every case is different, a key theme is the way in which adopting the right strategies can have such a dramatic impact. There is a common problem of initial diagnoses being either too general or insufficiently accurate and the pressures on parents when the problems are misunderstood are enormous. It is hoped these examples will help schools and professionals undertaking assessments to have a better understanding of this form of autism and how the correct approaches can help.

Please use these case studies and share them with others. This resource will continue to be developed over time, and is intended to help raise awareness so that diagnoses and strategies are put into effect more quickly than has been the case for some of these children and adults.

Found 33 listings

James’ story

James is 14 and kindly shared this extract he wrote about his experience of PDA. His insightful and honest account covers how PDA can be misunderstood; masking; school; the need to have ‘demand free’ time; the importance of trust in relationships; the impact of the Covid pandemic and what [...]

Helen’s story – PDA in families and deciding to home educate

Helen self-identifies with a PDA profile and sees the same traits in other family members including her daughter and her Mum, with mutual understanding across the generations having led to an instinctively collaborative and compassionate approach to both parenting and education. Passionately believing that our education system is not [...]

Tim’s story

Tim hadn’t heard of PDA until his youngest son was diagnosed with this profile of autism two years ago. During his son’s assessment Tim realised there were parallels with his own life. He was referred to adult mental health services by his GP where he was told that despite [...]

Agnes’ Story

During her early years at school Agnes was a model pupil - in stark contrast to the behaviour she displayed at home. Her parents and siblings struggled to understand where her outbursts of anger stemmed from. Over time Agnes’s school related anxiety increased until she began a period of [...]

Ben’s Story

Years of being misunderstood led to one failed placement after another before Ben was eventually sectioned age 29 and spent 3 years in an ATU. His first supported living placement was too unstructured with serious repercussions for Ben’s health and wellbeing. Under the Care Act 2014, Ben’s family now [...]

In Mainstream School – Rob’s Story

Adopting a PDA-friendly and holistic approach to education together with a totally individualised curriculum and a reduced timetable has been ‘transformational’ according to Rob’s head teacher. His one-to-one teacher shares his journey and some top tips for others. PDA diagnosis & inclusive approach enable Rob to thrive in mainstream school [...]

Jupiter Free School and Arijana

Arijana’s classmates have adapted with ease and were very accepting that Arijana was ‘learning how to be in school’. This is in no small part down to the strong values and culture that permeates the whole school and the recognition that good practice in SEN education is good practice [...]

Tony’s Story

Tony is 40 and lives in the U.S. He has a diagnosis of ASD with co-morbid Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Complex PTSD. He identifies strongly with PDA and has been reducing demands in his life so that he can lower his anxiety levels. His long-term goal in life is [...]

Mark’s Story

Mark ‘built masks*’ and ‘faked neuro-typical behaviour’ all his life whilst struggling under the surface with social interaction and unable to find a settled home or work life. Mark was diagnosed with autism aged 50 and self-identifies with a PDA profile. But lack of recognition of this more atypical [...]

Julia’s Story

Julia was diagnosed with PDA by Elizabeth Newson aged 12 after her increasingly challenging behaviour resulted in school exclusion and social isolation. Now in her early 30s, Julia recounts the impact PDA (and her co-morbid ADHD) has had from childhood onwards and how increased self-awareness and connecting with other [...]

Sally’s Story

Sally was diagnosed with autism in her 40s and through her own research self-identified as having a PDA profile. She felt empowered by the self-awareness that her diagnoses enabled and eloquently describes how this has helped transform her life whilst also explaining how PDA impacts her every moment. Sally [...]

Peter’s Story

Peter’s primary school years were a nightmare and his behaviour at home took a toll on his whole family. Lack of support and fighting the authorities added to the burden. Eventually his parents made the heart-breaking decision to request a residential placement for Peter. With experienced support staff who [...]

Riko’s Story

Riko was diagnosed with Asperger’s aged 27, and through her own research realised that PDA was the best fit for her profile. Looking back, Riko realises how much she masked her difficulties and found her own ways to accommodate for them, though she also experienced periods of deep depression [...]

Freddie’s Story

Freddie was diagnosed with Atypical Autism and ADHD just before his 12th birthday. His parents didn’t feel these diagnoses explained the difficulties Freddie was experiencing. PDA had been mentioned to them a few years previously and they adopted many PDA-friendly strategies to help him. Freddie’s family have seen vast [...]

John’s Story

Through her own research, John’s Mum felt he had many autistic traits but that there were boxes he didn’t fit. John struggled on with a non-specific autism diagnosis but school attendance was erratic and recommended strategies made him worse. After a lengthy battle and multiple diagnoses, John was eventually [...]

Michael’s Story

An ASD diagnosis helped Michael’s parents justify their need to parent differently, something they had previously felt blamed for. However Asperger’s didn’t fully or accurately describe his presentation, whereas PDA fits him ‘like a glove’. Michael’s Mum had found herself naturally adopting PDA-friendly strategies through her own trial and [...]

Milly’s Story

After years of increasingly challenging behaviour, an inaccurate Asperger’s diagnosis and no professional support, my family was in complete crisis. Only through my own tenacity, the support of fellow parents and consistent use of PDA strategies have we been able to see the light at the end of the [...]

Dan’s Story

Because Dan masked his difficulties at school, whilst his anxiety was sky high at home and it was a daily battle to get him to attend, it was only when he ran from school that we were taken seriously. Despite school & external agencies working hard, their efforts were [...]

Katie’s Story

Children like Katie seem too complicated for the usual system, no one knows what to do with them. This puts all the pressure on the parents. And yet my evidence and strong belief that Katie had PDA were dismissed and my parenting blamed. Advice targeting the incorrect diagnosis of [...]

James’ Story

James was a lively toddler with an inquisitive nature, though his family recognised early on that some of his behaviours weren’t typical for a boy of his age. He managed to attend school up until year 3 at which point James’ anxiety levels became very apparent, and his negative [...]

Stan’s Story

Already having another child with Asperger’s enabled Stan’s Mum to really understand the differences with PDA, both in terms of how it presents and in terms of handling strategies. Having persevered in order to obtain a diagnosis of ‘atypical autism with PDA traits’, Stan’s Mum then trained others in [...]

Joe’s Story

Joe had managed to mask at school until expectations increased in Y3 when things went rapidly downhill. An initial diagnosis of Asperger’s, dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder (SPD) was refined to PDA; Joe was also prescribed low-dose Prozac to help with his anxiety. These together with a close and [...]

Francisco’s Story

Mostly our parenting was blamed for Francisco’s difficulties, but we never stopped looking for answers and knew deep down that it wasn’t a question of being firmer or having stronger boundaries. From the point of diagnosis onwards, daily life has become much easier because we now understand what [...]