Wednesday 8 May 2024

PDA Day 2024 - more about Pathological Demand Avoidance

Hello, and happy PDA Day! Whether you've just found my blog recently and you are new to PDA, hoping to understand a little more about this profile of autism known as Pathological Demand Avoidance, or you have been 'following'/seeing my posts for a long time, you are welcome here!

brown haired white mum cuddling two young girls, all smiling broadly at the camera

Over 14 years ago I typed my first words on this blog website, having plucked the name 'Steph's Two Girls' out of thin air (well, kind of. I did have two girls and I knew I wanted the blog to be about both of them). I barely knew anything about blogging or social media back then, I didn't know much at all about autism, and I hadn't even heard of the words Pathological Demand Avoidance. I was at the beginning of a very steep learning curve!

That day I started blogging was the day when a diagnosis of autism was first suggested for our younger daughter. She was just 2 and a half years old. We had been to an appointment with a paediatrician, after an initial assessment with a speech therapist because Sasha's speech was delayed. There was subsequently a good degree of language catch up, which I mention because, at that time, speech delay with catch up (often by the age of 6) was said to be one of the indicators for PDA (for more information on this, please see the book Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome in Children, page 31).

In the following months, I began to meet with other mums of young autistic girls. And I would think "well, Sasha sounds a bit like those girls, but a lot different in some ways". I couldn't put my finger on what it was exactly, I just knew that Sasha's reactions to many everyday situations were different, and more extreme. Eventually I spent an evening searching the internet for answers, and I came across the term PDD-NOS (more about that in one of my earlier posts here). Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, sometimes also known as atypical autism, still didn't seem a great fit for our girl, but somehow it felt closer than the more 'general' autism diagnosis.

From there I followed a few leads and eventually ended up on something called the PDA Contact Forum - this eventually became the national charity for PDA in the UK, the PDA Society. Other parents were explaining behaviour and reactions from their children that matched exactly how our young daughter was. That was my Lightbulb Moment. The point at which it all made sense.

And the rest, as they say, is history. History written over 14 years of this blog, sharing our family's experiences. Because I wanted other people to understand that our daughter wasn't being naughty, or oppositional, or awkward. She was just experiencing life differently, and needed to be supported.

I knew that traditional, typical parenting methods had worked fine for our older daughter, but that they weren't working for our youngest. There was a lack of understanding from her in some ways, and an inability to see the world from our viewpoint as parents. We soon learned that we were the ones who needed to change our lenses, to alter our behaviour and to increase our knowledge and understanding of her challenges. 'Telling' our child what to do had little effect. Rewards and consequences had no effect. Underlying a lot of her reactions was anxiety at an extreme level, although the anxiety was not always easy to see when she was younger.

Several years after that autism diagnosis for our younger daughter we began another learning curve as our older daughter was diagnosed at the age of 16, first with ADHD, and then with autism. Our two girls are very different from each other; our eldest does not have the PDA profile. Now they are teenagers, soon to be 19 and 17, so the blog does not share so much of their personal lives. Their stories are theirs to tell, if they choose to. 

A couple of years ago we were approached to write a book about our PDA experiences and I was happy to do this in order to help other families feel not so alone. I also hoped it would help professionals understand the challenges of PDA. Every time I am asked now what I would like others to know about PDA, I reply "that it is very real".

Our book is called PDA in the Family, released in January 2024.

grey haired me smiling at camera holding up pda in the family book that has orange cover
My hair colour has changed a little over the past 14 years....

PDA in the Family tells our story from that day of diagnosis (and a little bit about the years before) right through the early years, education hurdles, anxiety and mental health, sensory issues and relationships, up until our youngest was about 14 years old. Both girls were fully in agreement with the sharing of these experiences and gave their own words for certain parts of the book. There is also a whole chapter written by my husband, the girls' dad, which I think is great because it is rare to hear from a male SEND parent's perspective.

Another result of my blogging that I am proud of is being able to share other people's real-life stories and experiences alongside our own, in two different series - one called Our PDA Story and the other called Not Fine in School. Although situations and ages of children (and adults in some cases) were different in all these stories, there were many similarities and common themes. I would recommend reading a variety of these by clicking on the series name.

The changes and introduction of algorithms on social media mean that these days it is not so easy for posts to be seen; reach is often restricted and I never know who is managing to see anything I write. If you're interested in making sure you do receive more information about PDA from me, please sign up for my Substack email newsletters ( or save this blog in some way. Over 14 years worth of experiences means a lot of posts on this blog so I occasionally try to highlight the ones that I think will be most helpful to other families and professionals in those newsletters.

If you're not sure where to start, here was a good place! You might want to also read my post Ten things you need to know about Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) or to find out what books about PDA I recommend (other than ours ;) ), or maybe you'd like to understand the difference between Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

alphabet tiles spelling out how to help pda on the floor

Some parents and educators are hoping for strategies or ways to help themselves and their child. Try Strategies for PDA or How to help children with Pathological Demand Avoidance for parents or Pathological Demand Avoidance: Strategies for schools. For a summary of my most read/popular posts, see Top Ten information posts about PDA.

Thanks for stopping by; if you'd like to get in touch with me directly please email me at I'd also like to highlight that the PDA Society has a free enquiry line manned by volunteers with a wide range of direct PDA experience:

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