Understanding how to support PDA students in the classroom
Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a profile of autism that can present significant challenges to students in the classroom. While the symptoms of PDA vary from person to person, those with PDA typically have difficulty managing their emotions, are highly sensitive to change and routine, and are often anxious. Understanding the unique needs of these students is key to providing successful support in the classroom.
What is PDA?
Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is an autism spectrum disorder characterised by extreme anxiety when faced with demands or expectations. People with PDA often avoid social interaction and will have difficulty completing tasks that involve following instructions, even if they know how to do them. It’s important to note that while people with PDA may also struggle with communication difficulties, this isn’t always the case. They may be able to communicate effectively but find it difficult to follow directions or complete tasks due to their anxiety about being given instructions or orders.
Supporting student success
When supporting a student with PDA in the classroom, it’s important for teachers and SENCOs to create an environment that promotes positive learning experiences. This means taking into account variables such as noise levels, temperature, and lighting as well as considering how best to structure lessons so that instruction can be broken down into manageable chunks for students who may have difficulty focusing on longer tasks. Additionally, it’s helpful to create a safe space within the school or classroom where students can take a break if they become overwhelmed by sensory stimuli or anxiety-inducing activities.
It’s also important for teachers and SENCOs to recognize signs of distress in students with PDA and respond appropriately. Strategies such as distraction techniques, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness activities, or offering extra time on assignments can help reduce stress levels and provide comfort during moments of high anxiety. It’s also essential for teachers and SENCOs to be aware of any triggers that might cause increased stress for individual students so they can be prepared ahead of time when introducing new activities or subjects into lesson plans.
Providing effective support for students with PDA requires an understanding of their unique needs and an awareness of how best to create a positive learning environment within the classroom setting. By taking into account factors such as noise levels, temperature control, structure of lessons and potential triggers for distress, teachers and SENCOs can work together to develop strategies for successfully supporting students with Pathological Demand Avoidance at school.
Education Boutique specialise in tutoring support for young people with a PDA profile. Director, Lucy Alexandra Spencer is available for planned or bespoke training, INSETs, twighlights or webinars to upskill teaching and support staff to identify and support students with a PDA profile to thrive.
About the author
As a qualified teacher, Lucy Alexandra Spencer founded Education Boutique with the hope of impacting education globally. She now travels the world as a trusted education adviser, winning Female Entrepreneur of the Year at the Thames Valley Awards 2021 and, most notably, joining the Eteach team in 2021. She is thrilled Education Boutique has become the tutoring element within the Eteach Group and feels so lucky to be able to combine her passions for teaching and educational consultancy in this dynamic partnership.