Kids have the nature to follow whatever is asked of them. However, not all of them are the same.
Some children have the tendency to go to extreme lengths to avoid whatever is asked of them. They feel the need to deny or avoid anything that comes as a demand. This pattern is called pathological demand avoidance.
This is nothing easy for their parents, teachers, or caregivers. In fact, PDA, or Pathological demand avoidance, is very much of a hindrance to their education or daily routine work at home.
Students with PDAs often refuse to do homework or pay attention in class even though the task is not tough. Parents also have a hard time persuading them to do their routine work.
They usually would refuse to do routine work like dressing up or taking showers. Parents are often obligated to do these things for their children. The reason for calling this avoidance a pathological one is because of children’s inability to function at home or school.
In this article, we have discussed how Pathological Demand avoidance can affect children, and the coping mechanism parents and caregivers can use to help them.
What Is Pathological Demand Avoidance?
Pathological demand avoidance, or PDA, comes under the spectrum of autism, but it is different from it. It is a pervasive disorder related to all aspects of a child’s development. In 2003, Elizabeth Newson was able to identify this disorder.
Children with PDA have the tendency to avoid or abstain from anything asked of them. They don’t like to follow demands and would often avoid demands by using excuses, creating distractions, having an intense focus on something else, and escaping or withdrawing. Panic attacks and meltdowns are also common reactions of children with pathological demand avoidance.
Characteristics Of PDA
Here are the core characteristics of PDA –
- Children with PDA have the urge to resist the normal demands others make on them.
- It is a way of managing acute anxiety among children.
- Children/learners with PDA can use social skills to manipulate; this is unlike children with autism. They can function these skills at logical levels rather than using them at deeper emotional levels.
- They often show obsessive behavior toward other people.
- Excessive impulsivity and mood swing is common among children with PDA.
What Do PDA Behaviors Look Like?
Unless the child is personally motivated to do certain things like taking a shower, putting their shoes on, or getting dressed, others cannot get them to do these things.
Experts call such behavior “self-directed behaviors” and the condition, Pathological demand avoidance. When parents or others ask them to do routine work, they show negligence or have the will not to do it. Parents are often frustrated by such things.
Similar things happen to adolescents or older children who find it difficult to complete the tasks assigned to them. They cannot complete the basic academic assignments even though they have the necessary academic skills for the same.
How To Support Children With Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome?
It is not easy raising a child with pathological demand avoidance. However, you can still try following the steps mentioned below –
1. Provide a low-stress environment
Children with PDA may become anxious or stressed when they feel pressured or overwhelmed. Create a low-stress environment by reducing sensory input, minimizing demands, and providing predictable routines. This will minimize your need to demand them to do something. When there is less demand, they will have less necessity to avoid them.
2. Be Flexible
Children with PDA may have a strong need to control their environment and may struggle with changes to routines or unexpected demands. Be flexible and willing to adjust your expectations and plans.
3. Use indirect language
Children with PDA may respond better to indirect language rather than direct demands. Use phrases like “I wonder if you would like to” or “I was thinking it might be fun to” rather than “You need to” or “Do this now.”
You can also follow the ways of concealing demands. Some sentence examples are given below –
- Would you do…
- Could you…
- If you’re happy to…
- Is it ok with you…
- When you have done with…could you…
- Do you mind doing/going…
- How do you feel about…
- Look at that, now it’s time to…
- I bet you can’t do…in five minutes
- I wish I had someone to help me with…
- What shall we do next…I will let you choose…
- Don’t you clear that up…
- Which task do you prefer…this one or this?
- Do you want lunch at 11 or 12 …
4. Offer Choices
Children with PDA may feel overwhelmed when presented with too many demands. Offering choices can help them feel more in control and reduce anxiety. For example, “Would you like to do your homework now or after dinner?” offering choices takes away the room for demand which children with PDAs cannot agree to.
5. Seek Professional Help
Consult with a healthcare professional, such as a pediatrician or child psychologist, to develop a plan of support for your child. Sometimes it gets too difficult for parents to cope up with the situation and raise a child with pathological demand avoidance disorder. However, consulting with psychologists and professionals can help them get personalized tips for taking care of pathological demand avoidance.
Avoid Power Struggles
This is a great tip for parents who are looking for ways to deal with their children with PDA. well, it is needless to say that you cannot avoid every demand, but there are ways to deal with those as well. You don’t have to put stress on them to do things right away.
You have an idea about what can trigger your child, so it is best to avoid those and deal with things tactfully. Sopick where you have to have a firm hand over things. For example, you might ask them to finish their homework or assignments that they have to submit tomorrow. But do you really have to pressure them about visiting your friend’s house, or the outfit they should wear? Think and choose your battles.
Keep Things Interesting
If you know your child’s interest area, use it carefully. It is difficult to motivate a child with PDA. No traditional reward system is effective for them, but if you know what they are interested in, you can use that to motivate them and entice them.
You can incorporate role-playing, drama, and pretend play to make them do something which they would otherwise avoid. Try it a different way, and it might work wonders.
Children with PDA want to be in control, but at the same time enjoy doing things that make others happy. This can be something very positive but if they find that you are reminding them of doing it or you have some expectations related to it, that is when things get a bit tricky. It is best to leave them hints without directly instructing them. For example:
- I am looking forward to seeing your science project for the assignment.
- I can’t wait to taste those noodles you make.
- Your brother is very excited to know what you are giving him this Christmas.
You can use tricks like this to remind them of a forthcoming event and if you want them to do something for you. Make sure they don’t feel like they are expected to do something, or you are demanding something out of them.
Tips For Parents To Deal With PDA
The child needs support and help from the experts. But the parents who raise children with this condition are also in need of support. Here are some tips for parents to cope with such conditions.
- Although your child’s behavior might seem frustrating, sometimes you should know that they are not doing it on purpose. They don’t want to challenge you; they are only having a hard time controlling the environment around them.
- Children with PDA need more support than usual. It is important for parents to realize that as soon as possible. You can talk to the special educational needs coordinator at the school.
- Spend some time and think about how to get your child to follow demands without really putting them forward as demands. We have shared a list of sentences that you can use as pointers.
- Some days your child might be more capable of handling the demands than the other days. You have to find out what causes such changes.
- Learn what triggers your child to avoid/resist demands you or others make. Once you learn about the triggers, you can avoid them to minimize what causes PDA resistance.
pathological demand avoidance treatment takes time. So, if you are taking care of a child undergoing such treatment, you need to be patient. It takes a lot of time to identify problems related to different skills like social, motor skills, sensory processing, or learning ability. Improving them takes even more time.
However, you can deal with the disorder better once you go through the tips mentioned in this article. However, we advise you to consult with experts if the situation is difficult.
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