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Diverse Thinking Different Learning

May 7, 2024

Some parents may describe their child as very strong-willed. That child may show an extreme avoidance of everyday demands, expectations, and requests. But what if the behaviors are not an indication of strong will, but rather occur because a child feels overwhelmed by demands and perceives them as threats to their autonomy and self-control? Are there specific strategies that would be helpful when raising a demand-avoidant child or teen?

Today, we’re going to be talking about Pathological Demand Avoidance with Dr. Casey Ehrlich. She is the CEO and founder of At Peace Parents where she specializes in teaching parents and therapists practical skills in the home or clinical setting to accommodate neuroception-driven demand avoidance and nervous system differences through creative techniques.

Show Notes:

  • [3:10] - Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is considered a nervous system disability. Dr. Ehrlich explains why this is and shares alternative names for it.
  • [5:41] - Many parents and clinicians have found that the strategies they have tried have not worked or made things worse.
  • [7:39] - Dr. Ehrlich describes a recent situation with her son that demonstrates sudden nervous system activation in PDA.
  • [9:33] - We need to understand the root cause of behaviors that are interfering with your ability to connect with your child.
  • [10:57] - PDA may show up as a regression or can surround a primary need.
  • [12:58] - PDA is often misunderstood.
  • [15:04] - With a background as a social scientist, Dr. Ehrlich explains some of the research about PDA and why many children and teens are not correctly identified.
  • [17:45] - Accommodations include autonomy, equality, trauma-informed play, nervous system signals of safety, communication, lowering demands, humor, novelty, and more.
  • [21:38] - PDA is happening on a subconscious level. It isn’t about emotions.
  • [23:37] - It can be confusing as a child gets older because they do begin using social strategies and we may not see escalation as nervous system dysregulation.
  • [27:46] - Pausing to de-escalate is crucial.
  • [29:24] - Is PDA only seen in people with autism?
  • [30:42] - Connections can only be made when PDAers feel a sense of safety.
  • [33:21] - Awareness is the first step.
  • [35:55] - Dr. Ehrlich learned more about PDA as a mother than a clinician.
  • [40:41] - Dr. Ehrlich hosted a podcast called PDA Parents where she talks about her experiences across eight episodes. She also hosts the At Peace Parents Podcast.

About Our Guest:

Casey Ehrlich, Ph.D. (she/her) is a social scientist, parent coach, and educator, and the CEO and founder of At Peace Parents. Casey brings 15 years of work experience and expertise in social science methodology to help parents and therapists understand how to connect with and accommodate PDA Autistic children. She is currently working on empirical research with the University of Michigan  Medical School on Pathological Demand Avoidance in children and teens. 

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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc. or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.