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Resources to Help Kids Thrive Newsletter

Demand Avoidance in Kids

A weekly update of content from childmind.org featuring parenting advice, in-depth articles, and the latest thinking on children’s mental health and learning disorders.

January 31, 2023

Avoiding things they’re asked to do is pretty typical behavior for kids, whether they quietly ignore instructions, make elaborate excuses or have a tantrum. But there’s a pattern of avoidance that’s so extreme it’s called pathological demand avoidance, or PDA. It’s usually seen in children on the autism spectrum. Kids with PDA react negatively to anything that feels like a demand or expectation — even if it’s something routine that they are happy to do as long as it’s their idea.

This week we explore PDA — why outside demands make these kids so uncomfortable they feel they can’t comply, even if it makes it hard for them to function, at home and at school. Experts explain the best ways to work with kids to overcome demand avoidance. And we round up some other resources about neurodiverse kids, including how to make kids who have sensory processing issues comfortable in events like children’s parties, and how service dogs can help.

Related Resources

Pathological Demand Avoidance in Kids

When children resist anything that feels like a demand.


What Is Neurodiversity?

And how can parents support kids who are neurodivergent?


What Should an Evaluation for Autism Look Like?

A step-by-step guide to getting an accurate diagnosis.


Sensory-Friendly Party Ideas

Tips for throwing inclusive (and fun!) kids’ parties.


Do Sensory Processing Issues Get Better Over Time?

They may not disappear, but they usually become milder as kids mature, and learn to manage them.


Service Dogs Protect and Connect Autistic Kids

Families see big breakthroughs in behavior.