Ten Things To Do - PDA

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Ten Things To Do

Ten Things To Do to support children with

Pathological Demand Avoidance PDA


Stay calm and try to keep your body language neutral

PDA children are very good at reading people and use this to manipulate or escalate the situation.


Be indirect when giving instructions

Hide demands by using statements that describe what needs to change.

'Close the door'
'The door is open'.

Intentionally complicate language in instructions

Processing complex sentences can distract the PDA child from the demand hidden within it.

'It's time for reading'
'When we've found your reading book we'll have time to enjoy it together'.

Use novelty to distract or calm

PDA children are generally curious and can sometimes be distracted when a new situation, person or interesting object is presented.


Use their interests to distract and maintain attention

PDA children often have specific focussed interests. These can sometimes be used to gain some cooperation and concentration on adult directed tasks.


Be flexible and make the most of the situation

Children with PDA are experts in avoiding demands and so things will often not go to plan. Adults need to be able to 'go with the flow' and adapt to changing circumstances.


Reduce pressure around demands

Try to make doing a request a very casual, ordinary and unhurried experience. Use reassuring comments such as:

'You have as much time as you need.'
'It doesn't matter how you do it'.

Transfer the demand to them

Encourage the child with PDA to come up with the next step themselves.

'Now you need to put your coat on'
'What do you think we need to do now?'

Create silly challenges

For example - 'bet you can't finish before I say "Hibbily Dibbily Do" three times' or 'I don't think there is anyone in the whole universe who can do this sum'. Avoid trying to get the child to compete with others as this may increase anxiety.


Depersonalise rules

PDA children are more likely to comply with requests that are established as coming from a higher authority than the adult saying them.

'This is a school rule'
'It is the law'.
Other Things To Do

Set clear individual learning targets for the child and use any opportunity to reinforce them

In school, lesson objectives may become unachievable when the child actively avoids them. At these times the adult's focus becomes about managing potentially explosive situations and attempts to pursue the lesson objectives are often necessarily abandoned. When this happens the adult can try to make the most of the situation by using any opportunity to introduce target related learning into the child's activity. E.g. A child with an interest in dinosaurs and a target of being able to count to ten could be encouraged to count the number of dinosaurs in a book or other resource.

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Ten Things To Do to support PDA children

A handy printable version of this Ten Things To Do guide suitable for handing to parents, school staff and other professionals and carers. Use 2-sided printing (set printer to flip on short side) and fold in half to produce A5 leaflet.

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PDA Management

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