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Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome Support Sheet

What is Pathological Demand Avoidance

  • Resisting and avoiding the ordinary demands of life this might include getting up, getting dressed, eating a meal or washing. Significantly, it includes things that someone might want to do/enjoy.
  • Using ‘social’ strategies as part of the avoidance – this means not just saying no, withdrawing, shutting down or running away, but a variety of avoidance approaches including distraction, making excuses.
  • Appearing sociable, but lacking some understanding – meaning that individuals may appear more sociably ‘able’ than one might expect.
  • Experiencing intense emotions and mood swings – meaning difficulties with emotional regulation, rapid mood swings, impulsiveness and unpredictability.
  • Comfortable in role play, pretence & fantasy – this can sometimes be to an extreme extent with other personas. The line between fantasy and reality can sometimes become blurred.
  • Displaying obsessive behaviour that is often social in nature – as with other autistic people, repetitive or restrictive interests is common with PDA.

Understanding Behaviours

Anxiety – a PDA child’s behaviours are underpinned by anxiety and a need to feel in control.

Difficulties in processing language – the child with PDA may have good expressive language but may not be able to process verbal communication quickly enough to keep up during a conversation.

Difficulties with social interaction – they may not always understand the unwritten rules of social interaction including body language and tone of voice.

Confusion about emotions – they may not be able to understand or accurately ‘label’ emotions in themselves or other people.

Intolerance of uncertainty – they may struggle with all the ‘what ifs’ of life, not knowing how things might ‘pan out’ or what might be expected of them.

Sensory overload – The PDA Child’s heightened sensory perception can also contribute to anxiety, overload and avoidance.
Pathological Demand Avoidance card - Stickman Communications
Pathological Demand Avoidance - The Control

Top Tips for staff and parents!

  • PDA can turn “parenting norms” upside down so our own mindset and moods are key factors in developing a toolkit of helpful approaches.
  • Look beyond surface behaviours – outward behaviours are just the tip of the iceberg with many contributory factors lying below the surface.
  • Re-balance your relationship – a more equal relationship between child and adult, based on collaboration and respect, builds trust. Try to aim for win:win solutions.
  • Allow the option of saying no. Avoid using demand words such as: Need, Must/Must not, Will/Will not, Can’t, Now.
  • Make requests instead of demands: Is it OK with you if…, How do you feel about…, Do you mind…, Would/could you…, If you’re happy to…., When you have finished with … could you then…
  • Model desired behaviours.
  • Pick your battles and treat every day as a fresh start.
  • Focus on the long-term objective of building a child’s ability to cope rather than short term compliance.
  • Be flexible – helpful approaches require creativity and adaptability.
  • See the positives – whilst supporting a child’s challenges, try not to lose sight of their many positive qualities.
  • Support and self-care for you – it’s also important to ensure you are caring for yourself as well as possible.
  • Subtle adaptations to language can benefit the child eg: “Your clothes are on the bed” rather than “you need to get dressed now.”
  • Offering choices: the idea is to give the child some control without losing all control as the adult.
  • Ask the child for help – saying that you don’t know or can’t remember how to do something.

Where can I seek help?

REACH School SENCO – Amanda Thomas

Assistant SENCO – Alison Miller

Birmingham City Council SEND Department –

PDA comes under the umbrella of Autism

• The PDA profile of autism is often missed – either because an assessment for autism is refused or because, following an assessment, no diagnosis is given or because autism is diagnosed but no mention is made of PDA traits.

• This may be because the PDA profile may not always ‘look like’ what many people think autism ‘looks like’.

• In PDA, social interaction and communication skills – including eye contact and conversational timing – can seem more conventional or ‘socially accepted’. Indeed, individuals are often refused autism assessments on these grounds.

What is a Demand?

Direct demands such as: Wake up, get up, get dressed, get your bag etc. Anxiety levels are raised from the moment a child wakes up, one demand compounds the next and it can quickly get to overload point. Sometimes this is described as the “coke can effect” – it’s easy to predict the results if you imagine giving the can a shake every time a demand is made.

Indirect demands such as:

Time – is an additional demand on top of the demand itself. Plans – advance planning may lead to increased anxiety but equally there may be an intolerance of spur of the moment activities. Questions – the expectation of being required to respond to a direct question can be disabling. Decisions – sometimes knowing a decision has to be made makes it a demand. Uncertainty – intolerance of uncertainty has been found to be very significant in PDA. Praise – this carries the implied expectation that the action will be carried out or improved on next time. Socialising and peer pressure – including special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas and trips out. Transitions -the demand to stop and switch what you’re doing and also the uncertainty around what may come next.

SEND at REACH School – Advice Sheet for parents

SEND stands for Special Educational Needs and Disability. All schools have a duty to be accessible and inclusive for the students within their community. It is our job to support parents in providing the best possible education for their children.

What do we do at REACH to support students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

Categories of SEND

SEND is split into 4 main categories:

  1. Cognition and Learning
  2. Social Emotional and Mental Health
  3. Communication and Interaction
  4. Sensory and/or physical difficulties

Outside Agencies that REACH School use

  • Communication and Autism Team
  • Speech and Language Therapist
  • Pupil and School Support Services
  • Educational Psychologist
  • ADHD nurse
  • Sensory Support Services (Visually Impaired and Hearing Impaired)


How do we identify if your child at REACH School has SEND?

  1. Information from their previous mainstream schools.
  2. All students take reading and spelling tests when they start REACH to assess their literacy needs.
  3. Classroom observations by the SENCo, Assistant SENCo and all staff.
  4. Assessments by outside agencies if needed.
  5. Diagnosis by a Paediatrician.
  6. Queries from parents regarding their child’s needs.
Quotes about Difference and diversity (34 quotes)

Provision Map

When a student has been identified as having SEND they are put on REACH School’s Provision Map which is used as a tracker to show what support and provision those students are getting.

Education Support Plans

Every Student identified as having SEND has an Education Support Plan with their strengths and difficulties listed and strategies that staff can use in order to support them. These are working documents that can be added to and adapted as needed.

Literacy Needs

If from the results of the reading tests a student has a reading age of 11 years or below, they will start a reading intervention with a member of staff either once or twice weekly. This will then be reviewed after 6 weeks to see if the intervention is still needed. Sometimes a student may have missed a significant amount of school and so just needs a quick literacy boost, other times a student may lack confidence and a 1-1 session can help boost that confidence. We try to personalise the intervention to the needs of the student.


ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

ADHD, as with Autism, has to be diagnosed by a paediatrician and they will offer advice and guidance on how best to support your child.

It may be that the paediatrician advises that your child takes medication and we would always try and encourage our students to take the paediatrician’s advice, even if it is on a trial basis. Medication really can make a significant difference to an ADHD student’s focus and concentration and ultimately getting the grades they deserve.

We will also put support strategies in place to ensure your child can access the curriculum. Teachers will plan lessons so that they are split into short chunks and do a variety of activities to keep the ADHD student’s focus.

If your child does not have a diagnosis and it seems that there are ADHD traits we can do a referral to the paediatrician.

Exams Access

If a student has a Special Educational Need we can apply for special provision for them for support in exams. We have to go through a rigorous system to ensure that the Exam Board are aware of the need of the student and the support the student receives is the correct support.

The support they receive has to be something that is their normal way of working in lessons such as:

  • If they need someone to read for them in a lesson, then they can qualify for a reader in exams.
  • If they struggle with focus or concentration because of a diagnosed condition such as ASD or ADHD we can give them timed rest breaks from exams.

If you feel your child needs support in exams please speak to Amanda or Alison and we will do all we can to ensure they get the support they need.


Many conditions need to be diagnosed by a medical or educational expert. Conditions such as ASD and ADHD need to be diagnosed by a paediatrician. At REACH we have very close links with the health services and paediatricians and will always do a referral if we think it is appropriate.

Other conditions such as Dyslexia need to be assessed by a qualified Dyslexia teacher. Again we will ensure we get the correct services involved in needed.

Autism (ASD)

  • If your child has an Autism diagnosis when starting at REACH we will contact the Communication and Autism Team (CAT Team) who come into school regularly to support our Autistic students. We will also put personalised support and strategies in place to ensure that the individual student can access the curriculum fully.
  • If your child does not have a diagnosis, but we, or you, think that they might have autistic tendencies we can do a referral, with your consent, to the paediatric service. It has to be a paediatrician that diagnoses Autism. We will always support parents with such referrals.

Where can I seek help?

REACH School SENCO – Amanda Thomas

Assistant SENCO – Alison Miller

Birmingham City Council SEND Department –

There are advice sheets on various Special Educational Needs available on REACH School’s website

SEND Information Report

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations (2014) require each school to publish certain information regarding provision for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). At Reach school we hope parents/carers of current and prospective students find the following information helpful. We encourage all interested parties to contact the school for more information.

Points highlighted in red are additional information added to the School Information Report during the period of Covid-19 and national school closures.

What kind of special educational needs are provided for?

REACH School is an Alternative Provision setting primarily for Key Stage Four students (years 9-11). REACH is committed to being as inclusive as possible, with the needs of SEND learners being met within school wherever possible. Special Educational Needs fall within 4 categories of need:

Communication and Interaction

Cognition and learning

Social, emotional and mental health difficulties

Sensory and/or physical needs

A student may have needs that fall into one or more of the above categories.

What policies for SEND are available?

SEND Policy (2019) is currently available. Other school policies available that relate to SEND include Teaching and Learning, Behaviour, Medical Conditions, Safeguarding, Equal Opportunities and the school accessibility plan. This report is written in compliance with the SEND Code of Practice (2015) and section 69 (2) of the Children and Families Act (2014).

How does the school know if children need extra help? / What should I do if I think my child/young person may have special educational needs?

We receive information from students’ previous settings. The progress of all students is monitored regularly by subject teachers and the senior leadership team by data analysis and pupil progress meetings, so that when a pupil is not making expected progress in a particular area of learning the school can quickly identify the need for additional support. This will be discussed with parents/carers and the pupil concerned. If parents/carers have concerns about the progress or attainment of their child they should in the first instance make an appointment to speak to their child’s personal tutor to discuss their concerns, who will then liaise with our Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO)/ Assistant SENCO as appropriate.

How will school support my child?

REACH aims to teach all students together in their groups where possible, with the subject teacher differentiating and supporting the student. Group sizes are no bigger than 8 students in a class. Additional adults are often present in the teaching rooms to support the learning and/ or additional needs. At times it may be necessary for a student with SEND to assess intervention; either as part of a group or 1:1. For some students the school uses outside support agency resources and staff with parental agreement. REACH provides a range of support and interventions which may be used when we identify a need for additional support. We will regularly monitor the progress of all students receiving additional support to ensure that the provision we have put in place is having the impact we are expecting.

What emotional, mental and social support is available for students with SEND?

Pastoral mentoring, counselling services, family support work and links with external agencies are all provided to ensure that social, emotional and mental health needs of our SEND students are met.

What adaptions may be made to the curriculum or the learning environment to support children with SEND?

Our teaching rooms are adapted to support children with SEN through offering a calm and routine environment and we provide any appropriate equipment as required; for example- transparent overlays to support students with dyslexic tendencies Most students access the National Curriculum at their broad age appropriate expectations and this is differentiated in our small teaching groups to enable this to be successful.

How is the decision made about what type and how much support my child will receive?

Quality First Inclusive Practice is the high standard of differentiated quality teaching that we expect all staff to deliver at REACH School. Parents are contacted when concerns arise, or additional support groups or individual intervention takes place; a discussion is held as to what provision the school will be making. If a student needs to be referred to an outside agency, parents will be asked for their permission and views which form part of referral process. All interventions are monitored for impact and outcomes are defined at the start of any intervention. The SENCO oversees all additional support and regularly shares updates with Governing Body.

How will my child’s progress be monitored?

How does school measure the effectiveness of provision? Every student progress is monitored carefully throughout their time at REACH through data analysis and pupil progress meetings. In accordance with the SEND Code of Practice (2015), the process for responding to students identified as needing additional support, follows the four step cycle called the Graduated Response.

  • Assess- The student will be assessed thoroughly to identify the key area of need and ‘next steps’ targets will be produced
  • Plan- Provision needed to support the student to achieve their ‘next steps targets will be carefully planned to scaffold the students learning towards their goal. This may be in the form of: intervention; curriculum adaptations; resourcing and additional support. If the support is through intervention (individual or small group work over and above what is offered in class), this is delivered by skilled teachers/support staff.
  • Do- The support planned is put in place and monitored over a period of time leading to review.
  • Review- Following the additional support, it will be reviewed against the students targets in order to consider next steps. Where additional or specialist support is provided targets are set and regularly reviewed by the SENCO/Assistant SENCO and people involved in the delivery of support.

During a period of enforced closure (for example, Covid-19) the SENCO will work with the Local Authority to decide when and how to hold Annual Reviews. These may be completed over the phone or by video call, as appropriate. The SENCO will consult the student on their views as well as the parent and will ensure these are reflected in the Annual Review process.

How will school keep me informed of my child’s progress? / How will school help me to support my child’s learning?

Termly parent review days and reports give all parents and carers regular feedback on their child’s progress. If your child receives regular extra support you will receive additional feedback on their progress. When appropriate, parents and carers may be contacted mid-term to discuss the support that the school are providing and advice will also be given on how they can help their child at home. Pupil’s views will be obtained and they will be asked to join the meetings. We work in partnership with parents to support each young person’s wellbeing, learning needs, progress and aspirations. Teachers are available to meet with parents before or after school if needed. Parents can also contact the school for an appointment with the SENCO/Assistant SENCO.

When following the government’s national guidance around social distancing parents of SEND students may decide to educate their child at home to ensure their safety. This decision will be made in partnership with the Headteacher and SENCO. Parents of SEND children will be contacted weekly by a member of the SEND or pastoral team who will help with: concerns around accessing work; speak to the student to check on their wellbeing; make expectations about completion of work clear to both the student and parent; liaise with teaching staff around the need for further support, where appropriate.

How will school involve other professionals? All external partners we work with are vetted in terms of safeguarding and when buying in additional services we monitor the impact of any intervention against cost, to ensure a value for money service. Professionals working with REACH will include representatives from Communication and Autism Team, Pupil School Support, Counselling services, Speech and Language and School Nursing Team.

Where appropriate, external agencies will be deployed to work remotely with students to ensure that ongoing casework and assessments can take place with as little delay and disruption as possible. These sessions may be held over the phone or via online platforms. Some video sessions will be completed when the appropriate consent has been gained by parents.

We recognise that during the period of Covid-19 student’s social and emotional development and wellbeing could be adversely affected. As a result, we will provide access to resources that explain Covid-19 in a child-friendly manner. We will direct external agencies for wellbeing to provide support for students who may be identified as needing additional support. We will ensure each SEND student is contacted weekly to check on their progress and wellbeing. We will provide links to online mental health provision on the school website that all students and parents can access and ensure they are appropriately signposted.

What training have the staff had supporting children with SEND had?

The school has a development plan, identifying training needs for all staff to improve teaching and learning of all students including those with SEND. This may include whole staff training on SEND issues or to support identified groups of learners in school, such as ASD or dyslexia. Whole staff training will be to disseminate knowledge, strategies and experience and to ensure consistency of the schools approach for children with an SEND. Individual teachers and support staff attend training courses run by outside agencies that are relevant to the needs of specific students in School. We regularly invest time and money in training our staff. All of our teachers hold qualified teacher status and training is given regularly to all staff on specific learning needs. The SENCO has completed the National SENCO Award and has recently completed a Master in Education degree in Special Educational Needs and Disability.

Where possible and within reason, staff will continue CPD through online courses and training.

How will school prepare and support my child to join the school?

We have an Induction programme in place for welcoming all learning into our setting. This includes baseline testing in Reading, Spelling, English and Mathematics so we can group and identify support for students accordingly. Pastoral and SEND mentoring is provided for students as and when needed.

How accessible is the school?

Where feasible, we make reasonable adjustments to improve the accessibility of our environment to meet individual needs. Our policy and practice adheres to The Equality Act 2010. The school is accessible to students with physical disability via a lift. We have a disabled toilet on each floor.

Where possible and within reason, teachers will set accessible work for students with SEND when working from home. The SENCO and Assistant SENCO will be contactable should parents or students need additional support or guidance to complete the work. A member of the SEND team will contact all SEND students weekly to consult with them about access and completion of work.

What should I do if I have a complaint regarding my child’s SEND?

We take our responsibilities seriously and work hard to ensure that each child’s special education needs and disabilities are met. However, should a parent have a complaint regarding this, then the school’s complaints procedure should be used, which can be found on the school website.

Named school contacts for SEND:

  • SENCO: Mrs Amanda Thomas (Assistant Headteacher – Student Welfare)
  • Assistant SENCO: Alison Miller (HLTA)
  • SEND Governor: Sarah McAneny (Student Welfare)

Details of our main linked external providers:

Pupil Support Services:

Communication and Autism Team:

Speech and Language:

Sensory Support:

School nurse:

To learn more about Birmingham’s local offer for SEND:

Agencies that may be of help to parents:


Phone- 0121 303 5004 Address- Lancaster Circus, PO Box 16289, Birmingham, B2 2XN Website-

Forward Thinking Birmingham (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services): Phone- 0300 300 0099 Website:


What is Dyslexia?

The SEND Code of Practice 2015, states that “specific learning difficulties (SpLD), affect one or more specific aspects of learning”. This is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of learning differences. These include dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.

The term dyslexia is derived from two Greek words, ‘dys’ meaning ‘difficulty’ and ‘lexia’ from the root ‘lexis’ meaning ‘words or language’. The literal meaning is therefore ‘difficulty with words’.

Despite considerable scientific and educational research, there remains a wide variety of terminology and definitions of dyslexia. Worldwide there is no single, commonly accepted definition or agreed cause.

Teaching Tips for Dyslexia

1. Praise Gives Power Criticism Kills

A person with dyslexia needs a boost to their self-confidence before they can learn to overcome their difficulties. They have already experienced failure and deep down they often don’t believe they are capable of learning. To re-establish self-confidence provide the opportunity to succeed and give praise for small achievements

2. Don’t ask person with dyslexia to read aloud

Words are likely to be misread or skipped, causing embarrassment.

3. Don’t use the word ‘lazy’

People with dyslexia have to work harder to produce a smaller amount. They will have difficulty staying focused when reading, writing or listening.

4. Expect less written work

A person with dyslexia may be verbally bright but struggle to put ideas into writing.

Allow more time for reading, listening and understanding.

5. Do not ask them to copy text from a board or book

Give a printout. Suggest they highlight key areas and draw thumbnail pictures in the margin to represent the most important points.

9. Background colours

Use buff, cream or pastel colours for backgrounds on computer screens, handouts etc. These colours have been found to be the easiest for dyslexic children to read from. The most difficult to read is black print on a white background.

6. Discuss an activity to make sure it is understood

Visualising the activity or linking it to a funny action may help someone with dyslexia remember.

7. Give the opportunity to answer questions orally

Often people with dyslexia can demonstrate their understanding with a spoken answer but are unable with to put those ideas in writing.

8. Using slower speech and simple sentences

People with dyslexia may need a longer time to process information, so use pauses when speaking to give them time.

10. Colours

Use blue, brown, red, green or purple board markers rather than black – these may be easier for some children to read. Use colour to separate key information written on the whiteboard /interactive board e.g. write lines or key information in different colours; use colour to separate sections and highlight ideas.

11. Fonts

Use sans serif fonts eg Comic Sans, Arial, Verdana, Century Gothic. These are easier to read as they don’t have the fiddly bits on the end of characters. Comic Sans and Century Gothic avoid the confusion between ‘a’ and ‘a’. Times New Roman is not particularly easy to read for people with dyslexia. Also use a suitable size font, 14 pt is ideal for most pupils but some may require larger.

12. Use examples and visual representations

Using visual presentations, PowerPoint projects, poster boards and discussions to help a pupil participate and to aid comprehension. Providing worksheets, writing frames or mind maps helps to organize information for writing tasks.


Tips for communicating with ADHD students

  • Avoid ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ – change to ‘could you show me’ or ‘could you do’
  • If the child seems to be arguing with you (which is typical ADHD behaviour), use phrases such as ‘Please let me finish and then it will be your turn to talk’
  • Try to use distraction techniques such as ‘could you just help me carry something’
  • Remind them that it is ok to disagree
  • Use phrases such as ‘I know you don’t like my request, but I believe it is the best decision’
  • Thank them if they accept your request
  • Explain that total non-compliance will have to be reported
  • Talk about their interests
  • Give personal space where possible and keep voice quiet but firm – not raised

Image result for adhd



All students with SEND are identified on entry to the school. Students are supported within lessons, one to one and with outside agency support.  

Some of the outside agencies that come into school are the Communication and Autism Team, Pupil and School Support Services, Speech and Language Therapist, Educational Psychologist and the Sensory Support Services when needed.  

The SENCO and Assistant SENCO are always willing to speak to parents about any needs they feel their children may have and how they can be best supported in school.  

Please see the Reach SEND Policy and SEND Information Report for detailed information of how students with SEND are supported within Reach School.

Our SENCO is Amanda Thomas. Our Assistant SENCO is Alison Miller