Friday 15 May 2015

Pathological Demand Avoidance Awareness Day and Born Naughty?

May 15th was National Pathological Demand Avoidance Day. That's a bit of a mouthful, isn't it?! Let's just call it PDA day for short, shall we?!

A programme called Born Naughty? was broadcast on Channel 4. This was a hugely important moment for me. As I understood it, the 'professionals' (some like to call them practitioners) on the show would diagnose 9 year old Honey with Pathological Demand Avoidance, a certain type of autism which I'm hoping regular readers of my blog will by now know all about.

There were complaints about the title of the show, as many feel that children such as ours are not 'born naughty' but are in fact born with a hidden disability. They have a different way of thinking and living, and much higher anxiety levels when faced with everyday demands when compared to the majority of their peers. The title was of course created in order to cause a stir, but it is important to notice the question mark. The question is to get us all thinking whether any child is 'born naughty' or whether parenting and conditions have a large effect on how a child develops.

The predictable media storm broke out on Twitter during the show, largely due to a certain individual, who obviously needs help herself, outpouring vitriolic comments about not only the general parenting involved, but also the weight of the child. I'm not going to dwell on that evil-ness (is that a word?!), though of course many others have. For me, the old phrase 'no publicity is bad publicity' runs around my head and I see this show as a watershed moment, a chance to have PDA confirmed as a real condition, that many have to live with every day. I've heard accounts from people I've met of how their children have been wild and out of control, threatening with knives or wanting to kill themselves.

It's been over 30 years since the first studies and recognition of PDA, and yet so many practitioners are still too sceptical or scared to diagnose it. We need more people to listen and to understand that this is not bad parenting, it is not being naughty. An early diagnosis and then using the correct strategies can make all the difference to a family. Although we haven't had a formal diagnosis for our girl, I am relieved that I had that 'lightbulb moment' early on and we adpated our lives before it all got way too stressful. We have been extremely lucky that everyone agrees with us and uses the best strategies. 

I realise that I am likely to spend the rest of my life fighting the ignorant people out there such as those showcased on Twitter last night. Actually, I won't fight, I will take the words of an inspirational blogger friend of mine, Hayley from Downs Side Up - what we all need to do is 'gently change perceptions from within hearts'. If I can achieve only half of what Hayley has, I will be proud. I'll never give up though; I will do it all for my gorgeous girl.

PDA is a type of autism. Children diagnosed with PDA are autistic; they are not naughty but they 'can't help won't'. This phrase is a perfect way of describing how difficult they find it to comply with everyday demands, even those that may bring them joy (such as 'put your shoes on, we're off to Disney').

The first port of call for anyone who thinks they recognise signs of PDA, in either their own children or those they teach at school, should be The PDA Society. Please check out their website at

For further views on last night's programme, please try these blogs by other writers with experience of PDA too. Don't judge until you have lived it yourself.

Did you watch the show yourself? What did you think? Any thoughts on that certain individual and her madness?!

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