May 23, 2018, by Kate

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and offending behaviour – sharing postgraduate research with professionals from the national autistic society

Omer Linenberg (DForenPsy trainee) discusses sharing her research into Pathological Demand Avoidance and offending with professionals from the National Autistic society at Robert Ogden School.

The day was sunny as I walked up the lane to the Robert Ogden School in Rotherham. It’s a very unassuming place, I thought to myself as I saw it. Yet, this is where the National Autistic Society supports around 100 students with varying levels of Autistic Spectrum Conditions. More recently, this is where a learning hub was created for students with Pathological Demand Avoidance (a behavioural profile associated with Autism Spectrum Conditions).

This is where I was headed: to attend the meeting of the Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) Development Group. The professionals here – educators, parents, clinicians, and researchers – talk about the state of affairs in the field of PDA. They think about how to raise more awareness, improve education strategies, diagnostic support for clinicians, and develop new research.

Phil Christie, who headed the meeting, worked with Elizabeth Newson – who first identified the condition in the 1980s. He moved swiftly and smoothly between topics, sparking conversation and debate, and encouraged everyone to speak about their work.

Opportunities to share postgraduate research

I was invited via Professor Vincent Egan, from the Doctorate of Forensic Psychology Course. Prof Egan introduced me to PDA as I started the course, it has been my research ‘baby’ since late 2015. Here, in this meeting, I would finally speak about my research to the people who wanted to hear about it the most (my parents don’t count – they really only take an interest as a courtesy, and because they can’t get me to shut up about it). It was an exciting moment: I found myself mentally spluttering, but somehow managed to speak about the relationship between PDA and offending.

However, some of the members were – understandably – not massively pleased. PDA is largely researched in the field of education and mental health, rather than offending. I explained that I also looked at creativity and PDA, to see if it was a protective factor against offending. It’s not always all bad outcomes in forensic research.

Over lunch I chatted to the group members, and was happy to note that they were all very knowledgeable – but down to earth, too. I discussed opportunities for further research after the doctorate, too, which excited me no end.

Linking research to practice

I also got a chance to visit the PDA-Hub learning area. I saw the individual classrooms, which students take responsibility to decorate themselves. They seem to contain a plethora of items related to their special interests. They use these to access their learning, and to de-escalate if they become agitated. I liked that the classrooms, despite being individualised, all opened to the same corridor and encouraged inclusivity between the students in the hub.

This day was an amazing opportunity. Not just to deliver my research – but to see how it links in practice to the very real people that we write about in academia, and how we can help them more.

Image courtesy of Alpha Stock Images – 
Posted in Sharing research