Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

I first came across the term PDA a few years ago, when I was researching various forms of autism. There was a documentary made on it, called ‘Born Naughty’, but I didn’t actually watch it, as neither of my kids were ‘naughty’ and didn’t seem to have any of the aggressive behaviour depicted in the trailer. I think I also got confused with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and assumed they were both the same thing. And my kids were not like that. Or so I thought. So I moved on, and didn’t give PDA any further thought. 

My son is diagnosed with ASD, and the ‘Aspergers’ subtype fits him like a glove. And while he has many challenges and difficulties with certain aspects of daily life, he is on the whole a happy chap. 

My daughter is also diagnosed with ASD. And while officially she too is of the ‘Aspergers’ subtype, I’ve never felt it to be a great fit. I assumed that this was because of the ‘female presentation’ aspect. (Though I really hate that term, as there are plenty of males and non-binary people whose autism presents in that manner.) But there were also elements that did not seem to be described very much in anything I read: the extreme mood swings (different from meltdowns), the manipulative nature, the having to do everything on her own terms, and the inability to comply with what seem to be very simple demands. 

And then, I can’t remember how or why, the term PDA re-entered my consciousness. I came across The PDA Resource website and also the diagnostic criteria , and something just ‘clicked’ in my mind. Here was something that fit my daughter to a T. (Apart from the language delay, which is actually a debated part of the criteria as it seems many PDAers don’t have it.) And as I read more and more, blogs and books and comments from parents in support group forums, I realised that it also described me as a child. I still have many of the features, but have developed coping mechanisms over the years so they are not so obvious anymore. (I always did say my daughter is like a ‘mini-me’!)

I’m not sure PDA is something that is very recognised in Ireland at the moment, though it’s recognition in the UK is increasing, and where the UK goes, Ireland usually follows. So at the moment, I’m ok with my daughter having a general ASD diagnosis. But knowing about the condition helps me develop better strategies for helping her, and for explaining some of her difficulties to her teachers. 

I’m really glad I stumbled upon PDA, and I’ve no doubt I’ll be writing a lot more about it in the future. 
[image of a light blue background, with the words ‘Pathological Demand Avoidance’ in capital letters in black.]

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