Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pathological Demand Avoidance

Pathological Demand Avoidance


This information sheet has been written in such a style as to try and make it accessible to children as well as adults in an attempt to inform as many people as possible about Pathological Demand Avoidance.

PDA is a pervasive developmental disorder. Dr Elizabeth Newson of Nottingham University identified significant atypical characteristics displayed by children diagnosed as having Autistic Spectrum Disorder (non specified).

PDA is quite rare. No one is really sure of the exact cause but it is believed the brain works in a slightly different way from other people’s brains. Children with PDA are very good at certain things they enjoy but often do not do so well at school, not because they lack intelligence but because they are afraid to make an effort in case it leads to further demands.

Children with PDA can find it difficult to get on with other people. They can get bossy or play a little too rough. They may shout and scream if they do not get their own way or go from being happy to furious very quickly. They might seem to ‘go over the top’ sometimes. Children with PDA find it hard to ‘tune in’ to what other people feel and they often don’t realise that other people’s feelings matter as much as their own. They often interrupt because they do not understand that the social rules for conversation are important.

Children with PDA find being asked to do things difficult, even easy things. They will have dozens of excuses why they cannot do something, will attempt to change the topic of conversation or talk and talk as avoidance strategies. Children with PDA frequently become panicky or agitated and often become very angry.

Children with PDA are ‘obsessional’. Their biggest obsession is avoiding demands. They may ask the same question over and over again, talk about one topic of conversation a lot, get fascinated by certain toys, videos, games or other objects. They say things over and over again to avoid doing what they are asked to do, and they keep blaming others for things.

Children with PDA may become easily upset or angered because they feel under pressure and this is hard to handle. They worry about things we don’t even give a thought to and they feel anxious most of the time. Anxiety increases when they are asked to do something. Imagine how you feel when you have a test or exam to do – a child with PDA feels like that most of the time!

Children with PDA have difficulty telling the difference between real and pretend. Stories and games may be taken seriously. Children with PDA are often taken advantage of because they don’t realise they are being tricked or lied to. They might seem as if they are showing off sometimes, but they don’t realise what other people think. They try to take over situations because don’t understand that they can’t be the adult!

Children with PDA find it difficult to take responsibility for the things they do. It seems that they don’t care about what they should and shouldn’t do. They often do not feel pleased with the good things they do and often do not feel proud or ashamed. Also, they don’t seem to know when they’ve gone too far! They seem very rude or naughty at times because they don’t understand which rules are important and get confused.

Most children with PDA are a bit clumsy; you may notice it when they are running around or doing sports. They often find it hard to hold a pen or pencil and writing can be hard work.

It is frightening and stressful to have PDA. You may have to handle a situation differently with a child with PDA as they often say the wrong thing, go too far or become agitated and argumentative without having any idea that they have been inappropriate.

Children with PDA do not understand themselves very well - they do not understand what being a child really means for them personally. We know how to behave, we understand social rules and how to behave in school and home, we know what to believe and how we feel about ourselves – children with PDA find all of this very difficult to learn even though parents try very hard to teach them this sort of knowledge. They don’t see anything as being their responsibility. They aren’t very good at keeping secrets and they say things that are unkind without understanding the upset these words cause.

There is no cure for PDA but with good teaching and encouragement they can improve all the time. There may have to be different rules for children with PDA as they do not always mean to do or say some things. If you understand why a child behaves in the way that they do you can help to make their lives a little bit easier which in the end will makes yours a little bit easier too!

Based on “Children with Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome (PDA) a booklet for brothers and sisters” by Julie Davies, Child Development Research Unit, Nottingham University

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