Pathological Demand Avoidance

St. John’s & Pathological Demand Avoidance

Pathological Demand Avoidance (or PDA) is described as ‘an anxiety-driven need to control and avoid other people’s demands and expectations’.[i]

Increasingly, St. John’s is admitting children and young people who have a diagnosis of autism, along with a ‘PDA profile’ or ‘PDA features’, as learners at our residential school and college. The need to avoid everyday demands can have a significant impact on the ability of a person with a PDA profile to engage in education[i] and this group can often be faced with exclusions and breakdowns of placements.[ii]

This could be attributed to several factors, including insufficient research and evidence of the syndrome[iii] meaning that there is inconsistent diagnosis, in turn, a lack of understanding of the individual, and the incorrect approaches being implemented to support them.

St. John’s adopts a Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) approach for all learners. You can read more about our approach here.


[i] Christie, P.,
Duncan, M., Healy, Z. and Fidler, R. (2012) Understanding Pathological
Demand Avoidance syndrome in children
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

[ii] Gore-Langton, E., & Frederickson, N. (2016) Mapping
the educational experiences of children with pathological demand avoidance.

Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs : JORSEN, 16(4), 254–263.

[iii] O’Nions, E.
& Eaton, J. (2020) Extreme/‘pathological’ demand avoidance: an overview.
Paediatrics and Child Health, Volume 30, Issue 12, pp 411-415


[i] Christie, P.,
Duncan, M., Healy, Z. and Fidler, R. (2012) Understanding Pathological
Demand Avoidance syndrome in children
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers,
page 19

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