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 diagnosing 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 is 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. Representatives from the NAS and PDA Society also attend and provide administrative support.

It meets twice a year and its purpose is to:

  • ​Provide a forum to update and discuss developments in research, practice and training.
  • Exchange plans about further development of training and conference materials.
  • Share information on upcoming publications and other resources.
  • Undertake specific pieces of work as requested and follow agreed actions from each meeting.
  • Take a proactive role in advising on necessary developments in the above areas.

The Group has produced two documents which set out the group’s position on:

Defining Pathological Demand Avoidance

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

If you wish to contact the group this can be done via the PDA Society

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: