What is pathological demand avoidance?

Individuals with pathological demand avoidance (PDA) share difficulties with others on the autistic spectrum in social aspects of interaction, communication and imagination. However, the central difficulty for people with PDA is the way they are driven to avoid demands and expectations. This is because they have an anxiety based need to be in control.

The main features of PDA are:
• resists and avoids the ordinary demands of life
• appearing sociable, but lacking depth in understanding
• excessive mood swings and impulsivity
• comfortable in role play and pretend, sometimes to an extreme extent
• language delay, often with good degree of catch-up
• obsessive behaviour, often focussed on people

Children with PDA can be controlling and dominating, especially when they feel anxious – however, they can be enigmatic and charming when they feel secure and in control. Many parents describe their child with PDA as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character.

Many parents of children with PDA can feel that they have been wrongly accused of poor parenting through a lack of understanding. This is not the case, it’s important to remember that PDA is not caused by a person’s upbringing or their social circumstances and it is not the fault of the parents or the individual with the condition

At Sunflower, we approach a child expressing PDA symptoms in the same way we do every child: by looking at the whole child and improving every aspect of their health – musculoskeletal, neurological, biochemical and emotional – and in this way reduce the negative symptoms a child is displaying.

Aaron had been diagnosed with PDA. At the pre-programme assessment, it was clear that Aaron’s body was structurally out of alignment – his head, neck and spine were out of balance and his shallow breathing needed some work. The neurological elements of the assessment showed that Aaron struggled to coordinate his left with his right and the body with brain integration. He also needed some food supplements to top up his vitamin/mineral batteries.

Over a period of nearly a year, Aaron worked through his individual Sunflower Programme and made improvements in each of the 10 stages. His pre-versus-post programme score showed an overall uplift of 59%. His mother noticed improvements every step of the way and was impressed by how diligently he worked at home on his exercises and how willingly he took his food supplements. A lot of the work that the Sunflower Practitioner undertook alongside the family was around the emotional, academic and social difficulties that Aaron was having. Aaron conscientiously practiced the coping techniques he had been taught and became more able to handle the day to day challenges he faced. Even Aaron understood that he was improving in how he managed his own behaviour.

Aaron commented that he enjoyed the “chats” that he and the Sunflower Practitioner had at his appointments and was often excited to go home and tell his other parent all about what had happened at his session. He says he will miss his appointments.

Aaron’s parents are delighted with the differences that they have seen in him. He is now able to control his emotions and doesn’t have the huge anger outbursts that he did before. They feel that Aaron’s posture, balance and dexterity are as good as they can possibly be and he is sleeping better and his energy levels have improved. The school reported that Aaron is relating more positively to other pupils and staff and can concentrate better over longer periods. He is generally more co-operative and better at following instructions.

Aaron’s mother says, “We have all noticed that Aaron is much happier in himself and at school.” What fantastic news!

If you think your child may benefit from the Sunflower please get in touch for an informal and confidential chat on 0845 054 7509.

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