Tuesday 11 January 2022

The Family Experience of PDA {Book Review}

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The Family Experience of PDA, an illustrated guide to Pathological Demand Avoidance, has just jumped straight into the top ten of my 'best books for PDA' list. The author, Eliza Fricker, has created a brilliant guide for parents of children who are demand avoidant. I related to most of the examples of life with PDA which are depicted throughout this book.

Green book cover with three mini illustrations of mum with child, title text The family experience of PDA

There are 11 main chapters (plus an introduction and conclusion) covering areas such as sensory needs, anxiety, relationships, meltdowns, collaboration, fun and flexibility. Every single chapter includes examples of different approaches to use in order to help and support children who may have features of PDA. Eliza begins by looking at tolerance levels and explaining about how the child's ability to cope with demands will change based on different circumstances. She introduces the idea of minimizing demands and using indirect language, and later in the book talks about how collaborative approaches can be successful.

illustration showing woman's head and text in speech bubbles, reproduced below image

The illustration above shows different phrases such as: 

I wonder if… 

Shall we have a look at this? 

I can’t do this very well… 

How about question… 

We could always… 

What’s the best way? 

That’s a good idea

and is titled collaborative ways to communicate. Best used with minimal eye contact and side on…

The Family Experience of PDA is the perfect mixture of illustrations and text. The illustrations accurately depict, at a quick glance, situations which are happening in many PDA households across the country. The text that goes alongside them describes in accessible and non-flowery language what is happening and why, and how we might best react to or manage these occasions. 

When I first received a copy of this book to review, I wrongly assumed it would be mostly illustrations. That's because I've seen many wonderful illustrations from the author before, on her great website missingthemark.blog. I've even included this one below in one of my blog posts in the series Not Fine In School, where Eliza briefly touched on her own struggles with the school system, struggles we understand too well in this house. Pop over to Not Fine In School Week 5 to read her thoughts on that.

Comic strip showing parent going into child's bedroom trying to persuade them to go to school and being shouted at

This extract in the picture below is some text from the book which jumped out at me because it describes how school staff can help children with PDA - it's all about relationships.

Page of text from book. Text is reproduced below image

When the PDA child is demand avoidant, the expectations of the school environment can be very difficult for them. Even when a child is bright and creative the classroom setting can be overwhelming. Usual classroom practice means that teachers put lots of demands on all the children, all the time, and there will be much expectation to try to do things correctly.

For our daughter, friendships, as well as certain staff members, were key to her engagement at school. A good teacher or teaching assistant for a PDA child will know how to interact in a natural way, using subtle distraction when the child transitions into school in the morning. If the child is feeling overwhelmed they will pick up on the little changes in the child before they have a meltdown or shutdown and they will play games while having conversations to improve their social skills.

These relationships made the difference as to whether my daughter was able to go to school, so, as well as being invaluable to our daughter, they have been invaluable to us too!


Although the book title suggests this is only about the Family Experience, I see it as being very relevant and full of helpful information for anyone who may spend time with children with PDA. I would love to see a copy of this book sent to education establishments everywhere. Maybe you might like to order one for a school local to you?

I highly recommend The Family Experience of PDA; available now via Amazon and all good book stores.

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