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This is a short 500 word opinion piece for SEN Magazine. I discuss how non-autistic children and young persons (CYP) with PDA have the same rights to diagnoses, research and support as autistic CYP with PDA. I briefly outline how PDA can be viewed to be more common that some would argue, and some of the case that PDA is present in some non-autistic persons.
Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a proposed mental
disorder, which frequently invokes strong passions advocating
for and against its use.
PDA is described as possessing obsessive resistance to
demands of “ordinary” life, involving manipulative strategies
to avoid demands. Other features include rapid changes in
mood, being comfortable in roleplay and pretending. Finally,
much, or most behaviour is obsessive in nature.
Developmental features of PDA are not essential for a diagnosis,
its most prominent screening tool for children and young
persons (CYP) does not require a person’s demand avoidance
to be from early infancy. At least four studies suggest PDA’s
features reduce as CYP mature, hence, is not pervasive in
nature. Nonetheless, many view PDA to be a form of autism.
Almost a decade ago, it was argued that PDA is a common
phenomenon, perhaps even a new childhood disorder. Lately,
it is recognised that the original research investigating PDA
contains non-autistic persons with PDA. This is supported by
several studies finding PDA in non-autistic persons. While
validating an adult screening tool, it has been found that PDA
is present in the general population.
There has been a consistent view that PDA is seen in non-
autistics, initially with its discoverer stating PDA is not autism.
Recently, many experts have expressed the opinion that PDA
is seen in non-autistic persons.
It is argued that PDA has different strategies compared to
autism, which involves offering choice, and negotiating with
persons with PDA. This is partly because reinforcement-based
approaches concerning praise, reward and punishments do not
work with persons with PDA (including non-autistic persons
with PDA). Such approaches can cause escalation of distress
behaviours associated with PDA. At worst, this approach can
extinguish CYP’s only effective coping behaviours to aversive
demands, and in time develop learned helplessness. Therefore,
a PDA diagnosis is required to protect CYP with PDA from
reinforcement-based approaches commonly seen in caregiving
interventions for disruptive behaviour disorders.
A multi-agency assessment pathway for PDA, regularly suggests
the use of PDA strategies for CYP without a PDA diagnosis.
This pathway was established to prevent deterioration of well-
being, and PDA is diagnosed under the universal rights CYP
have under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The
United Kingdom Special educational needs and disabilities
(SEND) system is needs based, not diagnosis based. By
demonstrating the clinical need for PDA in autistic persons,
its advocates have also established the need for PDA in non-
autistic persons. Non-autistic persons with PDA, have the
same rights to PDA diagnosis, research, and support as autistic
persons with PDA. There is an urgent need for a more equitable
debate on PDA.
Point of view: student
Rights of non-autistic children
and young persons with PDA
Richard Woods highlights the occurrence of PDA in non-autistic children.
About the author
Richard Woods is a PhD Student at London South Bank
University. Autimedes Training and Consultancy.
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Point of view
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Over the last decade or so, Pathological Demand-Avoidance (PDA) is often viewed as a “Profile of ASD” in the United Kingdom (UK). Despite over 20 years of substantial debate contesting the nature of PDA, and it lacking any robust evidence to suggest what PDA might be. This begs the question, why is PDA a “culture-bound concept” in the UK? Recognising all mental Disorders are socially constructed, this video examines different outlooks of PDA and how they evolved over time. Additionally, how different aspects of culture and biology intersect, to “PDA Profile of ASD” as a “culture-bound concept” to the UK. Consequently, creating a model of thirteen different themes of factors contributing to the biased hype surrounding PDA. Other Critical Autism Studies scholars can replicate. This video should be of interest to anyone critically engaging with PDA. Slides may slightly differ to those presented.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Presently, in the United Kingdom, Demand-Avoidance Phenomena (DAP, sometimes called “Pathological Demand Avoidance”) is simultaneously gaining significant interest and controversy. Its leading proponents assert that DAP is one of the autism spectrum disorders, despite the lack of consensus and evidence to indicate what it is, and how to view DAP. Consequently, there is much debate over how to conceptualise DAP, with divergent outlooks for DAP pathologising features not typically included in an autism diagnosis, to DAP being a magpie disorder containing features from many accepted diagnostic entities. This talk we discuss its four main schools of thought, and they each evolved. Finally, focusing on how DAP can be conceptualised as a standalone diagnosis, and can be modelled as a generic stress management process. These are the slides delivered to a talk to Children and Technology Lab: University of Sussex on the 18th of November 2021. The talk is intended to provide an overview on how PDA might be conceptualised by those studying PDA. Potential discussion topics further resources. What the academic literature says about Newson et al (2003):� Why we should ignore Phil Christie's views DAP is an Autism Spectrum Disorder video:� Comprehensive overview to DAP & its broader debates seminar:� How “DAP Profile of ASD” is used to control autism stakeholders video:�
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