Since I wrote this post 15 months ago, my opinions on Demand Avoidance Phenomena (DAP) have changed substantially. Please engage with my current academic work to see my present opinion on the topic. You can access it through the link below:



I do not think PDA itself exits. I think Newson was originally seeing autistic persons, which explains why it is has become fashionable to assume PDA is part of the autism spectrum. I think PDAers are just autistic persons being rebranded as PDAers. I also think that there are many interacting reasons to explain why PDAers display PDA behaviour:

  • Looping effects.
  • Internalising of medical discourses.
  • Complex interaction between autism and its comorbidities.
  • Being conditioned into the PDA behaviour profile.


I think there are many things being seen in the demand behaviours, some of it is due to high anxiety due to uncertainty [as explained by Luke Beardon’s (2012) Global Instability Theory] but it is not because of an inherent need for control, that is projected by others onto autistic persons. I think there other things in the demand behaviours such as Damian Milton’s (2017) Rational Demand Avoidance and PDA supporters seeing what they wish to see.


There is a view that PDA was created by Newson as a response to Wing’s triad of impairment; I have been told by a colleague of Christie’s (use to be a module lecturer of mine) there was a rivalry between the pair as Newson was not included in Wing’s autism group which at the time was the dominant UK research group. PDA was first mentioned (1980) after the Triad (1979).

That PDAers frequently do need a substantial amount of support and that PDAers place significant psychological pressures on those around them; therefore all parties involved with PDAers require extra support. That is no different from the rest of the autistic population.


There are also many issues of what the PDA label actually does? Which have not been conceived let alone considered or researched; what are the side effects of the label? There is a consensus at least among supporter of neurodiversity (which also includes non-autistic persons) that the medical based language of autism has serious problems for autistic person such as; stigma, discrimination, psycho-emotional disablement leading mental health issues, oppressive power relations and worse cases mercy killings by autism parents.


PDA proponents seem to ignore that most autistic persons want better services and support and not another label; arguably most autistic people do not want autism in the diagnostic manuals, which is the exact opposite of what PDA proponents trying to do (get PDA into the diagnostic manuals). They discount autistic persons tend to dislike behaviourism because it judges us to non-autistic societal norms and seeks to turn us non-autistic, typically autistic persons disagree with ABA and other behaviourism approaches that PDA is a part of. Do these opinions not matter to the PDA supporters?


An example of something that has not been considered about PDA is that it likely places considerable psychology pressures on parents to always utilise PDA strategies on PDAers, as argued by Christie et al (2012). One could even argue it is bad parenting to not always use the recommended adjustments.


I find it highly offensive how PDA is largely portrayed; “it is a part of the autism spectrum, first mentioned in the 1980s, provides support for PDAers and removes socials barriers etc. etc.” Most of that is basically propaganda and possibly miss selling their product as PDA is a commodity (Woods 2017). I feel sorry for PDA parents and PDAers who are being exposed by those selling PDA because the case for PDA is overstated, a lot it is based assumptions (such as surface level Theory of Mind), myths (that PDA removes social barriers, it likely creates as many as it could remove), politics (such as Christie’s involvement in Autism Education Trust is the likely reason why it supports PDA) and reputations (NAS and AET supporting PDA etc.). Most of the case for PDA does not survive critical thinking and those selling PDA like NAS are aware of PDA flaws. It is the reason why I say if people have a problem with my views take it up with those who are selling PDA.


If needs based approach was properly supported and resourced it would work, which most people accept is currently not happening due to the effects of austerity (do you think it is coincidence that rise in support PDA has happened simultaneously as austerity?). There are alternative ways of providing support such as using universal design in schools. They practice universal design in USA universities as it is a legal requirement. There is whole literature critiquing the use of labels to provide support, I suggest looking at these open access journals:

  • Autonomy, the Critical Journal of Interdisciplinary Autism Studies.
  • Canadian Journal of Disability Studies.
  • Disability Studies Quarterly.
  • Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research.

Researching these journals will help you get an idea of what is out there.


Overall I do not believe PDA is a case of Occam’s Razor; it is part of the autism spectrum and centred on high anxiety driven need for control. I think there are many things that all contribute to the construction and operation of the PDA and we will discover these in due time.



This blog post is largely derived from a twitlonger expressing my views on PDA at the time (Woods 2018).


Latest article published.

I and others have a new article published, Critical Autism Studies: a more Inclusive Interpretation, which can be viewed at the link below:



Beardon, L., 2012. Coping Strategies (Online). Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University. Available at: (Accessed on January 2017).

Christie, P., et al., 2012. Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome in Children: A Guide for Parents, Teachers and Other Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Milton, D., 2017. Educational discourse and the autistic student: a study using Q-sort methodology. In: Milton, D. A Mismatch of Salience: Explorations of the nature of autism from theory to practice. Hove: Pavilion Publishing and Media Limited, 2017, pp 163-179.

Woods, R., 2017. Pathological demand avoidance: my thoughts on looping effects and commodification of autism. Disability & Society, 34 (5), 753-758.

Woods, R., 2018. My opinions on PDA (online). United Kingdom: Twitlonger. Available at: (Accessed 30 March 2018).


  1. I’m a highly intelligent, functional registered nurse in the UK who spent a lifetime struggling with my personality on many levels. I can be charming and I found PDA – which answered all my childhood/teen/early adult questions (I’m old now). I’m scary (super intense, super eye contact, will cry in front of my patients), engaging, wordy at times, knowledgeable to expert level on some subjects, and on the whole alarmingly good at using my insight, emotional intelligence and empathy but display autistic behaviour at home. My patients (and parents) love me and I am a very good nurse (human interaction based job). So am I autistic too?? No-one agrees. I have some very low level ritualistic and social constraints to my behaviour, I score high on ASD tests, retract to solitude after my major efforts at work but on the whole, anyone tells me what to do and I’ll fight. To the point of leaving my job as it’s untenable (and have done many times). As a child I fought literally. I know I don’t have BPD or a PD and I am not a psychopath as I am way too good and succeed at everything. I am not on medication. Leave me to my own devices and I’m a sharing, caring and valuable member of a team. Tell me what to do in the wrong way and I instinctively CANNOT override the need to hit/hide/swear or argue at the immediate time it’s happening. And I mean I cannot stop that emotion happening. Which has led to arrest/sacking/disciplinary and loss of friends. So what am I? Autistic but atypical, wanna be popular aspie or autistic with a PDA profile?? Are PDAers aytypical aspies but we don’t mention that cos it’s not cool right now??

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a potential future academic researching Demand Avoidance you have just alienated yourself from your research population – Way to go!


  3. I am a single mum of a 16 year old currently in the process of being diagnosed with PDA. His therapist works with a psychiatrist in Sweden, who is researching PDA (I don’t know his name). I am confused by all your technical jargon and terms – but trying to get as much information on PDA as possible. Could you put your thoughts on it in layman’s terms fir me? I do not want to do the wrong thing for my son, however, his younger sibling and I are hostages under his frequent aggerssion, tyranny and gaming addiction. As person with autism yourself, I would be interested in your thoughts.


    1. For one my opinions on Demand Avoidance Phenomenon (DAP) are fluid and evolving. I standby the comments in this post, it is the best explanation for DAP; that it is rebranded autism. Yet, there is active debate over DAP, with there being no single interpretation of it. The evidence base for DAP is poor quality and does and generally can not be trusted. No-one knows what it is. I would go as far as saying the DAP clinicians/ charities are taking advantage of persons like yourself, you appear to be a vulnerable position from what is going on. The Pathological Demand Avoidance lobby are taking an extreme and unethical position on the matter. I would advise you to not get a DAP diagnosis for your child, you both would be better off with a recognised label.

      In relation to my current views, you would be best to see is my researchgate profile:

      For an good introductory explanation of one of the kinds of looping effects:

      I hope these help.


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