Quick references

The file Behavioural_Strategies.pdf is highly recommended :)


Avoid using 'demand' words such as:

  1. Need
  2. Must/Must not
  3. Will/Won't
  4. Can't
  5. Now
  6. By (a time/date)
Instead, try to make non-confrontational requests, instead of demands.
Try opening requests with phrases such as:
  1. Is it OK with you if---
  2. How do you feel about---
  3. Do you mind (doing/going etc.)---
  4. Would/could you---
  5. If you're happy to---
  6. When you have finished with---, could you then---

'The Golden Rule'

Demonstrate empathy - overall, and as a primary means of de-escalating behaviour. Always demonstrate empathy towards the child first, before taking any other action such as trying to explain your point of view to the child. Most parents are too quick to explain a situation to the child, to provide guidance or teach a lesson. But a child in a meltdown state will not calm down until he or she feels like they have been heard and understood. Empathy is critical not only to de-escalate a crisis, but for your child's overall mental well being - They need to be validated.
If you are unsure how to show empathy, techniques include mirroring the child, asking what happened, listen and then validate by repeating back their words ("wow, I can see why that was so upsetting to you, John took your FAVOURITE pen! That would make me mad too"). SO, demonstrating empathy first, before trying to express your point of view, even if you don't agree with your child, is a proven and effective strategy to make your child feel validated and understood, and will help calm them down in order for you to provide a teachable moment.
You can be flexible and calm, but none of that matters unless the child feels understood or "heard".
By the way, this technique works even on NT adults too!!! The minute you empathise, the other (upset) person will begin to calm right down.

Of course, sometimes that empathy is not easy to demonstrate - sometimes you as a parent are frustrated. It can take a lot of effort, but it is worth it!

Thank you to Christine F for this very perceptive strategy :)

Sometimes great success can happen by making 'things' into a game - like getting dressed, brushing teeth, having a shower, getting out to car, etc, etc... but be aware that the interest can wane suddenly, so be careful not to over-play the activity, and certainly avoid any and all hint at manipulation - and ALWAYS have a Plan B, C, D, E, etc... ready in the wings :) Keeping it fun can achieve a lot :)
Failures happen in life, even with NT kids, so try not to be downhearted if it does not work first time, or every time :)

PDA Strategy Graphics

Real World Guidance (quick 'rules')

Rule 1 : Be flexible (set boundaries in your own mind if you wish, but be very sensitive as to how you relay those feelings..)

Rule 2 : Build relationships - Trust is critical with any child, but many kids with PDA consider themselves to be adults and equals to their parents, so building trust is even more critical, and difficult.

Rule 3 : Offer simple choices - too many choices create a new set of demands - which is counter-productive...

Rule 4 : Choose words carefully - words matter - very much to people on the spectrum, and will be dissected and investigated almost scientifically...

Rule 5 : Use humour - humour is a great level playing field

Rule 6 : Remain calm - this is going to be extremely hard at times... but the rewards are worth it

Rule 7 : Reduce demands - as many as you can... some are for safety, but even those must be dressed up as something fun, a helpful 'game', etc..

Rule 8 : Plan ahead where possible - avoid sudden changes to plan and unexpected diversions from a steady existence..

Rule 9 : Pick your battles - some things matter, and some don't, so be prepared to let the big stuff 'go' unless it is dangerous, and don't sweat the small stuff.

Rule 10 : Very important to look after yourself in order to look after the child

Rule 11 : Realise that bad behaviour is usually anxiety

Rule 12 : Try not to take things personally

Rule 13 : Learn your child's triggers

Rule 14 : Don't punish anxiety - that makes it worse...

Rule 15 : Use calming strategies - Like fidget toys, water, calm space, counting down, silence, music, art, fresh air

Rule 16 : Try reducing, or even eliminating all processed foods

Rule 17 : Use Post-it notes, or whatever works for you, to remind yourself of what to do, and not do.

Thanks to the many wonderful parents, for these ideas/rules/guidelines


TOP TIPS to tame PDA - excellent short video

15 Things Kids or Teens Say That Could Mean 'I'm Anxious'
Where They Come From And How to Respond

Key features to supporting someone with PDA:
It is often the case that some of the strategies that are typically found to be effective for people with autism (such as the use of routine, predictability and structure) need considerable adaptation. Individuals with PDA respond better to less direct and more negotiative approaches, which may include the following.
Choosing priorities ; which demands are necessary and which can be avoided for now?
Reduction of demands where possible. eg certain requests and expectations.
Being very flexible and creative.
Giving choice and using negotiation.
De-personalising of requests. eg using written suggestions, attributing reasons for a request to other factors such as health and safety
Using indirect language, humour and games to obscure demands.
Use of indirect praise and affirmation.
Written by Dr Phil Christie 2016


One thing is that with any boundaries and rules you give is PDA kids always have to have meaning, especially as they get older. If your child can see the reasoning it's easier to make it happen, as long as you are very casual about it. And always expect the unexpected as kids can always surprises us.



There are 3 distinct masking articles all linked through the first one:-

1. Evidence for Autistic People Hiding/Masking their difficulties (David Reiser)

2. 'Good' Behaviour at School - Not so good at home (Dr Luke Beardon)

3. He behaves OK at school, but at home he is a nightmare...

  Declarative Language HandbookDeclarative Language Handbook
You might be a therapist or a teacher, or you might be a parent, grandparent, or babysitter. Your child might have a diagnosis such as autism, Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD or Non-Verbal Learning Disability. But they might not. No matter your child's learning style, this book was written to help you feel equipped to make a difference, simply by being mindful of your own communication and speaking style.