Information for healthcare professionals

Identifying PDA

PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) is widely understood to be a profile on the autism spectrum, though we are still at an early stage in our understanding and research into PDA is in its infancy.

The individual you see in clinic may not seem to quite meet the criteria for any one particular condition. Or they may have an existing diagnosis – autism, ADHD, anxiety, an attachment, personality or conduct disorder, or a mental health condition. Or they may have multiple diagnoses. Or no diagnosis at all.

But it’s very likely that you may find their presentation perplexing and almost certain that they won’t respond to conventional interventions or traditional techniques – indeed, these approaches often hinder rather than help.

Exploring whether a PDA profile of autism could be an underlying factor may signpost a way forward.

For more detailed information about identifying and assessing the PDA profile of autism please see:

Benefits of understanding the PDA profile

All research points to early understanding of strengths and needs, together with appropriate support, being key to positive long term outcomes.

Working with the PDA profile of autism is a completely different way of being, for the individuals and for me, but it works. My biggest challenge and frustration has been the system thinking we should be firm, not negotiate, not give choices, not recognise PDA. This has at times been heart-breaking for the individual and those who support them – Ben’s psychologist

Please see Benefits of understanding the PDA profile for more information.

Good practice

Browsing the available resources may give valuable insights – some have been tagged as being especially helpful for health professionals. There are a selection of case studies, books, good practice and insight articles, along with research papers and webinars.

An example of good clinical practice in relation to PDA is the pathway being developed in Solihull.

If you are finding that mention of the term ‘PDA’ is a difficulty for other professionals, you might find that the Being Misunderstood report, the PDA Society statement about diagnostic terminology and the recent ‘evidence for consideration of PDA by professionals’ document to be helpful.

PDA Development Group

The PDA Development Group was an informal group comprised of practitioners with an interest in PDA from a range of disciplines (education, paediatrics, psychology, research) working in both independent and statutory settings. Whilst the group no longer meets, it produced two helpful documents:

Defining Pathological Demand Avoidance

What makes a good diagnostic assessment for a child with a PDA Profile?


Helpful approaches

Understanding more about the PDA profile of autism, and adopting a needs-based and outcomes-focused approach, makes it easier to think about how best to help. A low-arousal approach is a good starting point, and again there is a wealth of information on our website which provides helpful pointers, including:

This comprehensive and straightforward NDTi “It’s Not Rocket Science” report makes recommendations for helpful approaches and changes that providers of CAMHS inpatient services can make to improve the sensory environment for autistic individuals. It also references PDA in Bethany’s story (Page 37).

Further information

In addition, we’d like to draw your attention to these additional sources of information, topics or fields of study which we feel are helpful in furthering understanding about PDA.

For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The PDA Society also offers email updates for professionals. To subscribe to receive updates about the latest news, resources and events relevant to professionals, please click on the button below: