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Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

An online learning series

Stream all webinars for 30 days

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This online learning series will explore Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) – a profile on the autism spectrum characterised by an extreme avoidance of everyday demands and expectations. Those with a PDA profile can appear to have better social skills than other autistic people, and often use this ability to create distractions and excuses to mask their difficulties. They may also present as excessively controlling and dominating when feeling anxious.

With the condition often misunderstood and the usual autism approaches of structure and routine ineffective, how can we ensure that we’re meeting the specific needs of young people with a PDA profile at home and in education?

Our team of leading autism professionals will provide you with the specialist knowledge and insights to answer this question.

Learnings include:

  • Recognising and understanding the features of a PDA profile
  • Implications for supporting children and young people at home and in education
  • Strategies to support engagement and learning
  • Diagnostic understandings and pathways
  • Understanding anxiety for people with PDA and how you can help
  • Can talk, won’t talk – PDA and selective mutism
  • PDA and masking
  • Navigating the CAMHS minefield

Our speakers include the world-renowned PDA experts Phil Christie and Ruth Fidler who wrote the book on PDA…literally! Their books “Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome” and “Collaborative Approaches to Learning for Pupils with PDA” are the go-to guides for those seeking insights into PDA.

All content is CPD certified and a CPD Certificate of Attendance is available upon request.

Day 1: Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

1.1Towards a better understanding of PDA
  • Background and recent developments
  • Diagnostic understandings and pathways
  • Main features of PDA profile
  • Implications for supporting children and young people at home and in education
  • Dr Phil Christie, Consultant Child Psychologist and Specialist ASD Advisor
    1.2Collaborative approaches for supporting children and young people with PDA at home and in education
  • Strategies to support engagement and learning
  • Promoting emotional wellbeing and resilience
  • Ruth Fidler, Education Consultant, Autism Associates
    1.3Understanding anxiety for people with PDA and what you can do to help
  • What are my triggers?
  • What does my anxiety look like?
  • How can you help me?
  • Understanding demands
  • Julia Daunt, Blogger, Author, PDA Advocate, PDA Society Trainer and Public Speaker
    1.4Finding shared goals and understanding Harry Thompson, Author, PDA Ambassador and Consultant
    1.5What I wish I’d known back then! Tips from a parent with the benefit of hindsightSteph Curtis, Blogger of family life with PDA at, Author and PDA Society Trainer

    Phil Christie CPsychol, AFBPsS is a Consultant Child Psychologist and specialist adviser working on an independent basis, or with colleagues as part of Autism Associates. Phil was Director of Children’s Services and Principal of Sutherland House School and the Elizabeth Newson Centre for more than 30 years. The Elizabeth Newson Centre provided diagnostic assessments of children from all over the UK and has a particular specialism in Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome.

    Phil is an Associate Editor of “Good Autism Practice” and previously undertook the same role for “Autism: International Journal of Research and Practice”. He was elected as Chair of the advisory council for the Autism Education Trust and is now Vice Chair of the programme board.

    Phil has been involved in conferences, training sessions and presentations on a range of topics related to the autism spectrum across the UK and internationally. He has been extensively involved in leading training events around PDA for schools and other organisations providing for children with complex presentations on the autism spectrum.

    Phil has published widely in the field of autism and has co-authored a number of books:

    First Steps in Intervention with your Child with Autism (with Elizabeth
    Newson, Wendy Prevezer and Susie Chandler). Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009.

    Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome in Children (with Margaret Duncan, Ruth Fidler and Zara Healy). Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011.

    Can I tell you about Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome? A guide for friends, family and professionals (with Ruth Fidler). Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015.

    Collaborative Approaches to Learning for pupils with PDA. Strategies for Education Professionals. (with Ruth Fidler) Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019.


    Ruth Fidler is an Education Consultant specialising in complex autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), interactive approaches and emotional well being.

    She worked at an all age non-maintained special school for 94 pupils across the autism spectrum for 22 years until 2014 and has worked independently since then. During her time on the senior leadership team the school sustained Ofsted outstanding status. Ruth worked within the school promoting interactive approaches and emotional well being for pupils with complex autism. As a member of the leadership team she had a strategic role and contributed to continuing professional development for all staff. She also led an outreach pilot project working with other agencies to meet the needs of children and young people currently unable to attend school. She has experience of using music to promote interaction.

    As well as providing training, she regularly observes and monitors teaching and learning supporting staff to embed and refine good autism and SEND practice.

    She also regularly presents at local and national events and conferences for parents and a range of professionals. She provides training and consultancy for a variety of schools and parents and works all over the UK and with organisations including the Autism Education Trust, the National Autistic Society the PDA Society. She is a member of the national Autism in Women and Girls Forum and the National PDA development group.

    She has contributed to publications in the Good Autism Practice (GAP) journal on the subject of promoting emotional wellbeing and is co-author of three books:

    Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome in children (2012).

    Can I Tell You About Pathological Demand Avoidance? (2015).

    Collaborative Approaches to Learning (2018).


    Julia Daunt is 38 years old and has a diagnoses of PDA, ADHD and psychotic episodes. She lives in Nottinghamshire with her partner of 17 years, Paul, and their two elderly cats. She is a blogger, keen crafter and advocates for better awareness and understanding of PDA.

    Julia’s first book is due out in August this year, entitled “Being Julia”, and it covers her PDA journey.


    Harry Thompson is heavily involved in projects and research on all topics around neurodiversity and autism; namely, Pathological Demand Avoidance, a behaviour profile within the autism spectrum. He launched his YouTube channel in March of 2017 which has since amassed a strong following.

    Harry has written a memoir entitled “The PDA Paradox: The Highs and Lows of My Life on a Little-Known Part of the Autism Spectrum”, which was published in 2019 by Jessica Kingsley.

    Harry’s aim is simply to make the lives of neurodivergent individuals and their families a little easier and enjoyable, and a little less chaotic and miserable. He believes that people are all too quick to label the neurodivergent child as broken, when really the neurodivergent child has buckled under the weight of a system that does not currently accommodate them, thus their gifts, merits and attributes are often obscured and their flaws are pronounced.

    In his spare time, Harry plays both guitar and ukulele, and sings as well.

    Harry was honoured to be recently elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). This was in recognition of his work in the field of PDA including the publication of his book, “The PDA Paradox”, deemed an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of PDA.


    Steph Curtis is the mother of two teenage girls, now aged 16 and 14. She started writing her blog (Steph’s Two Girls, at over eleven years ago, on the day her younger daughter was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Over the years since then, Steph has used her blog to raise awareness and spread understanding of Pathological Demand Avoidance. Steph has been a Trainer for the PDA Society for several years and has hosted both in-person workshops and online training. She has also worked for a large autism and ADHD charity and has represented parent carers on various Local Authority workstreams in her county.

    She is an avid user of most forms of social media and can be found under @stephstwogirls. Steph is in the process of writing a book about her family’s experiences, due to be published in 2022 by Jessica Kingsley.

    Within 24 hours of your booking, you will receive an email containing personal login details to stream all of the recorded webinars and view the available presentation slides for a 30 day period.

    If you don’t receive your login details, or have any difficulty accessing the webinars, please contact us at

    Streaming Cost£74.99

    •This is the cost for 30 day access to edited recordings of all webinars from Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).
    •£6.43 booking fee applies.
    •A CPD Certificate of Attendance is available upon request. Please email

    Day 2: Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

    2.1Advocating for your PDA child
  • Understanding the ECHP assessment process
  • What supports should be considered
  • How to get the right school
  • Leanne Jaques, Founder and Support Lead at The Lightbulb Moment PDA and Francesca Manca,
    PDA Mum, Trainer, and Founder of Underwing
    2.2Working with PDA children rather than against them
  • Following the child's lead
  • Prioritising and presenting demands
  • Negotiation and collaboration
  • Clare Truman, Education Consultant at Spectrum Space
    2.3Can talk, won’t talk – PDA and selective mutism
  • What is selective mutism?
  • What causes selective mutism in some PDA children?
  • What strategies can help?
  • Libby Hill, Consultant Speech and Language Therapist at Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy
    2.4PDA and masking 
  • What do we mean by masking?
  • Why do people mask?
  • Is masking more common for PDA than general autism?
  • Is masking a universal PDA trait?"
  • What are the benefits and costs of masking to the individual?
  • Sally Cat, Adult PDA author, illustrator and blogger
    2.5Navigating the CAMHS minefield
  • Why it can be difficult to get a diagnosis
  • Common difficulties/obstacles and how to navigate them
  • What can you do to prepare for the diagnostic process
  • Dr Judy Eaton, Clinical Director and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Help4Psychology, and Research Associate at Kings College, London

    Leanne Jaques lives in Yorkshire with her family. She has over 15 years’ teaching experience and has most recently worked in a specialist provision. Her youngest of two daughters was diagnosed with autism and a PDA profile in April 2019. When a second primary school placement broke down, Leanne realised she now had to be a voice for her daughter and set out on the journey to secure an environment at home and in education where she could thrive.

    Alongside caring for her daughter, Leanne is also the founder of The Lightbulb Moment PDA. She blogs about family life and her Community Interest Company currently supports parents who find themselves in similar circumstances. She is passionate about advocating for autistic children that mask. By sharing her knowledge and lived experience she wants to bring about change and a greater understanding of how autism presents.


    Francesca Manca is the founder and owner of Underwing and Shaping Your Future.

    Underwing helps female founders, special needs parents and special needs entrepreneurs turning their ideas into successful businesses, working around their lives and needs.

    Shaping Your Future CIC helps young adults with special educational needs find their path in working life.

    Francesca has over 20 years of experience in planning, running and managing events for clients like DIESEL, M&S, Santander, marketing and business strategy.

    She is also a keen mentor, team leader, and a special needs mum: her son is diagnosed with autism and pathological demand avoidance.

    After having worked in the corporate environment for the last 23 years, Francesca decided to use her skills and experiences to change the world for the better for her son and individuals like him.


    Clare Truman is a teacher, research student and big sister to an autistic young man.

    She was director of Spectrum Space Community Interest Company, an educational provision for students with PDA in Surrey until 2019. She now provides distance learning packages for students with PDA who find it difficult to access school as well as providing PDA training to professionals and parents. Both in teaching and research her main interest is supporting those children whose PDA makes it difficult to access education.

    Clare’s book, “The Teacher’s Introduction to Pathological Demand Avoidance: Essential Strategies for the Classroom” is being published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in July 2021.


    Libby Hill is a multi-award winning speech and language therapist who set up her organisation, Small Talk Speech and Language Therapy, to bridge the ever-widening gap between the increasing number of children with communication problems and the shortfall within the NHS.

    Libby has worked with hundreds of children with PDA since she appeared as part of the Channel 4 series, Born Naughty. Libby works within the PDA community to conduct assessment and therapy for children and young people with PDA, EHCP and Tribunal support, Training on PDA for parents and staff.


    Sally Cat is an adult PDAer author, illustrator, peer researcher, public speaker and animator, as well as the mum of a nine year old PDA girl. She publishes illustrative memes describing PDA on her Facebook page. She is the author of “PDA by PDAers”, the first book about adult PDA, and “Pathological Demand Avoidance Explained” which describes the inner experience of PDA through 75 illustrations. She is currently writing a book about Circadian Sleep Disorders, which frequently co-occur with PDA.


    Dr Judy Eaton is a clinical psychologist with a special interest in autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions in both children and adults. She is also Research Associate at Kings College, London and has recently published three peer reviewed papers looking specifically at the Pathological Demand Avoidance profile in children.

    Judy currently works independently and manages a large team of clinicians, including Clinical and Educational Psychologists, Speech and Language, and Occupational Therapists. Judy and her team are regularly commissioned by NHS commissioners to carry out assessments on highly complex young people.

    Prior to setting up her own independent practice, Judy worked as the lead clinician for a NHS CAMHS team, helping to set up one of the first truly multi-disciplinary autism diagnostic teams. Subsequently she worked in secure in-patient services within both adult and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services.

    Whilst working in in-patient services, Judy became aware of the number of young people in crisis, many of whom were girls and young women, most of whom were undiagnosed. She subsequently wrote a book entitled “A Guide to Mental Health Issues in Girls and Young Women on the Autism Spectrum: Diagnosis, Intervention and Family Support” which was published by Jessica Kingsley Publications.

    More recently, Judy has become increasingly interested in the PDA profile and, despite the controversies surrounding it, remains convinced that PDA is “something”. She enjoys the challenge of working with other clinicians, parents and individuals who identify with this profile, and those involved in research, to try and better understand what this “something” is.

    Judy is currently engaged in writing another book with colleagues in health and social care, specifically examining “complex and perplexing” presentations in autistic children which is due to be published in June 2022.

    In her personal life, Judy enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren, playing music and singing in a choir. She lives in a beautiful part of the UK and enjoy walks by the sea.

    Within 24 hours of your booking, you will receive an email containing personal login details to stream all of the recorded webinars and view the available presentation slides for a 30 day period.

    If you don’t receive your login details, or have any difficulty accessing the webinars, please contact us at

    Streaming Cost£74.99

    •This is the cost for 30 day access to edited recordings of all webinars from Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).
    •£6.43 booking fee applies.
    •A CPD Certificate of Attendance is available upon request. Please email