The educational experiences of autistic children


The educational experiences of autistic children with and without extreme demand avoidance behaviours

Shining a light on the types of difficulties that all autistic children can experience in school and how it can vary individually. Parent’s views on the key causes of problems provides an insight into what can help reduce negative experiences. A very helpful addition to the research literature.


Extreme demand avoidance (EDA) is increasingly described as part of the autism spectrum and is sometimes diagnosed as Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). Yet little is known, about the educational experiences of children with and without EDA behaviours. Using an online survey collecting both quantitative and qualitative data, 211 parents reported on the school experiences of their autistic children. 57 parents had a child with an additional diagnosis of PDA (AUT-PDA); 91 had a child with no diagnosis of PDA but, according to parent report, displayed EDA behaviours (AUT-EDA); and 63 had a child with neither a PDA diagnosis nor EDA behaviours (AUT).

Results demonstrated that there were few group differences in terms of the frequency of failed school placements and exclusions. However, children in the AUT-EDA/-PDA groups had higher levels of behaviour that challenges, which were particularly high in those with a PDA diagnosis. There were no significant differences in school exclusions, but the fact that these occurred across all groups is of concern. Qualitative results suggested overwhelmingly negative school experiences for all groups but especially the AUT-EDA and AUT-PDA groups. Parents attributed such experiences to misunderstanding of their children’s diagnoses and a lack of targeted support.


Authors: Clare Truman, Laura Crane, Patricia Howlin & Elizabeth Pellicano

Published: International Journal of Inclusive Education, April 2021