Demand Avoidance And Autism

Written By Autism Parents

A collection of parents navigating our way around raising children with autism

Demand Avoidance And Autism

Demand avoidance in autism, commonly known as Pathological Demand Avoidance, is something a lot of parents experience.

It is q behaviour pattern that can be quite perplexing and challenging for families and teachers.

In this article, we will delve into understanding this aspect of autism and give some tips along the way.

Understanding demand avoidance in autism

First and foremost, it’s essential to recognise that demand avoidance is more than just a child being stubborn or difficult.

In the context of autism, it often reflects a deep-seated anxiety and need for control over their environment.

For kids with autism, the world can often feel overwhelming and unpredictable.

When demands are placed on them, even simple requests can feel like insurmountable challenges, triggering an automatic response to avoid these demands.

Autism and demand avoidance
Demand avoidance and autism can come hand in hand

Recognising the signs

Demand avoidance can show itself in various ways. You might notice your child consistently resisting ordinary requests, like getting dressed or doing homework.

They might resort to negotiating, distracting, or even having meltdowns.

It’s not just about avoiding negative demands; sometimes, even activities they enjoy can become a source of avoidance if perceived as a demand.

What’s behind demand avoidance?

At the heart of demand avoidance is usually anxiety.

The autistic child’s world is one where sensory inputs, social cues, and expectations are often not in line with their processing capabilities.

When a demand is placed, it might not just be the task at hand that’s overwhelming, but the sensory or social implications that come with it.

An example could be when meeting new people you ask your child to say hello or give a hug.

Your child may be more than capable of both tasks but given panicked anxiety of social situations, they refuse altogether.

Ideas for parents

As we often say on this site, every child is different so what works for one may not work for another.

But with that caveat aside, here are some tactics to consider;

Be flexible where possible

Adopt a flexible approach. Rigid structures can often accelerate anxiety. Offer choices to your child, letting them feel a sense of control.

Even something as simple as offering them a choice of a toy to bring could reduce the avoidance of an overall demand.

Learn their triggers

Identify what triggers demand avoidance in your child. Is it a particular time of day, type of task, or way of presenting the demand?

Is their demand avoidance food related or regarding social situations.

If you learn where it kicks in, you can learn a way to work around it.


Obvious really but sometimes we can all forget the basics.

Try to maintain open and empathetic communication. Validate their feelings and let them know that you understand and support them.

Also explaining in terms they understand why the demand is being made can really help.

Pick your battles

Another common phrase on this site and it is ever so relevant with demand avoidance.

Sometimes, it’s okay to let go of smaller demands to maintain a peaceful and positive environment.

The point here is don’t cause world war three trying to get your child to eat carrots.

Get help

Consider seeking help from professionals who specialise in autism. They can provide tailored strategies and support.

It won’t necessarily have to be expensive therapists, schools often have special needs support.

Even reaching out to forums or support groups may help you tackling your child’s demand avoidance.

Don’t beat yourself up

As a parent, it’s natural to feel frustrated or confused by your child’s demand avoidance.

However, it’s crucial to approach these challenges with empathy and patience.

Understanding that your child is not being difficult on purpose, but is instead struggling to cope with their environment, can be a source of strength for us all.

Summary – Demand avoidance in autism

Demand avoidance in autism is a complex and often misunderstood behaviour.

As parents, recognising and empathising with the challenges faced by your child can make a significant difference.

With patience, understanding, and the right strategies, you can help your child navigate their world with less anxiety and more confidence.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and seeking support from the community and professionals can be immensely beneficial.

Good luck.

Any tips or ideas?

We would love to hear from you if you have got any techniques or ideas for our readers to try.

Be sure to leave a comment if any of the above has helped or if you have any ideas we can add to this article.

Also be sure to search for any other articles you might find helpful.

Try for example searching below for topics like ‘meltdown’ or ‘communication’.

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A collection of parents navigating our way around raising children with autism.

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