Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

'Natures answer to over-conformity': deconstructing Pathological Demand Avoidance

Milton, Damian (2013) 'Natures answer to over-conformity': deconstructing Pathological Demand Avoidance. . Autism Experts Online article. (KAR id:62694)


Throughout its history autism has been primarily defined in terms of a pathologised deviancy from normative cognitive functionality, despite protestations to the contrary from autistic writers (Sinclair, 1993, Arnold, 2010, Milton, 2011). More recently however, we have witnessed the wider acceptance of a construction concerning a perceived pervasive developmental disorder known as Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome (PDA). This conceptualisation was first formulated by Elizabeth Newson in the 1980’s (PDA Contact Centre, 2012), yet more recently has been recognised by the National Autistic Society as a variant of an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). This paper deconstructs the psychologisation of autistic agency inherent in the theory supporting PDA, through a personal reflection of an autistic activist and academic who according to such a perspective may well have met the criteria for PDA when a child. This paper concludes by arguing that the label of PDA represents the medicalising and pathologising of behaviours that from an outsider perspective seem to be differentiated from what is deemed capable by autistic people, but could be seen as the behaviours of an autistic person who has gained a modicum of normative social skills and is simply asserting their agency. By pathologising such behaviour, one could unduly be blunting attempts at autistic self-advocacy.

Item Type: Internet publication
Uncontrolled keywords: Autism, PDA, Neurodiversity, Control, Self-advocacy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ506.A9 Autism. Infantile autism. Asperger's syndrome
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ506.P28 Pathological demand avoidance syndrome
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Tizard
Depositing User: Damian Milton
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2017 11:58 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:24 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.