Demand Avoidance And Learning {week 2, 2023}

Demand avoidance can be a real struggle for neurodiverse children (and their parents!). This is what it looked like in our homeschool, at age 9 and now, at age 17.

Even if you have never heard the term “Pathological Demand Avoidance” if your child struggles with it, you know what it is. The reality is that this resistance to any demand is a constant stress, pressure and struggle, for both the child and the parent.

Demand Avoidance vs. Autistic Demand Avoidance vs. Pathological Demand Avoidance

Demand avoidance is something we all experience at one point or another, when faced with a task or requirement that we would rather avoid. For some neurodiverse children however, demand avoidance can be pervasive and incredibly challenging.

Autistic Demand Avoidance

Autistic Demand Avoidance is a component of ASD.

An autistic child will often resist or avoid demands or circumstances that trigger sensory dysregulation, changes in routines, anxiety, transitioning from one activity to another, and. perhaps most important from a learning perspective, activities or task that they do not have any interest in or understand the value of.

They will resist, withdraw, meltdown or escape in order to avoid these things.

Pathological Demand Avoidance

Pathological demand avoidance (PDA) is much more pervasive in a child’s life and has some unique components.

Many everyday demands are avoided simply because they are demands. Some people explain that it’s the expectation (from someone else or yourself) which leads to a feeling of lack of control, then anxiety increases and panic can set in.

 There can be an ‘irrational quality’ to the avoidance – for instance, a seemingly dramatic reaction to a tiny request, or the feeling of hunger inexplicably stopping someone from being able to eat.

The avoidance can vary, depending on an individual’s capacity for demands at the time, their level of anxiety, their overall health/well-being or the environment (people, places and things). –

While levels of demand avoidance exist for all of us, the reality is that for some of our kids, it impacts daily life and learning relentlessly.

(for more information about PDA visit

Demand Avoidance And Learning

When you read the definitions above, it’s not heard to understand the impact it can have on learning.

This week, we experienced it first hand and I thought, as part of our weekly recap, I would share what happened and how we worked through it.

An Example Of Demand Avoidance In Learning

As part of our learning on Tuesday, I asked my son to practice signing his name. I printed out sheets of paper with various lengths and thicknesses of lines and he set about signing his name to adjust to the different space requirements.

While this may seem like a very basic task, for person with dysgraphia, this is a demand.

Suffice to say, it did not go well.

This has been happening every since I can remember on a regular basis. When he was younger, pencils would be broken, crayons would be thrown, pages would be torn, and tables would be hid under.

Now that he is older, the paper is still torn and he withdraws.

How To Respond

For me and my child, the best response has always been to back off for a bit. Trying to force anything when we are the point of total breakdown has never, ever helped (not one time).

This doesn’t mean I let it go forever. I wait until we are both calm again, often even until a day or two later, and then try a different approach. This week, it meant pulling up pictures of Mozart vs. Beethoven’s hand written music. My son is really into music these days and I remembered seeing something about this in a YouTube video we watched a few months ago.

A quick google search and I found these:

Mozart is neat and tidy. Beethoven is all over the place. My son and I marveled at how their script is also reflected in their music. One is organized and sequential. One is wild and unruly. Both are wonderful.

I made the connection to his signature and assured him it can be more Beethoven than Mozart, and that my goal is to help him be more comfortable when he needs to sign forms as an adult.

He was then able to practice a bit.

This is one small example of how much this impacts our homeschool. A simple task can require more of both of us than it really should. But, the good news is, when I recognize and respect the demand avoidance, I am better able to help him overcome it.

Related: 10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Help A Resistant Learner

Now, here’s how the rest of our week progressed…

Homeschool Record Of Learning {week 1, 2023}

(You’ll find the original plan for last week HERE)

Interest-Led Homeschool Lessons {week 2, 2023}

Here is our plan for this week:

  • Monday
    • Physical Therapy – 2 hours
    • Final practice exam for Written Driving Test
    • YouTube Video of his choice
    • Blood Plasma Infusion – 4 hours
  • Tuesday
    • Neuropsychological Evaluation (all day)
  • Wednesday
    • Rock climbing – 3 hours
    • Mapwork – South America
  • Thursday
    • Rock Climbing – 3 hours
    • Music Class
    • Time with friends at school
  • Friday
    • Rock Climbing – 3 hours
    • CTCMath
    • Text Message Spelling

Because of the all day neuro-psychological evaluation, I am intentionally keeping our week light. Check back next week to see what we actually accomplished and how our plans changed.

Week One Homeschool Record Of Learning: Age 9

  • ABC writing practice – The Letter H vs. The Letter I
  • Sight Word Bingo
  • Read Aloud – Magic Tree House
  • Weird Science – Slime
  • Speech Therapy
  • Math U See
  • Friday Fun Day

NOTES: Demand avoidance at age 9 looked similar, but was much easier to redirect. If he didn’t want to do our read aloud for example, I would often ask if he would prefer to take it out to the trampoline. He would jump and I would read a chapter or two.

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    1. I am so glad you brought this up. I have a teen with ASD and PDA. It is really challenging for the individual and the family. We aren’t the only families with neurodifferences that make home education so powerful and also challenging!

    2. We certainly had PDA in our autistic lad. Planning as far ahead as possible helps, and drip-drip-drip repeated reminders before hand to prepare for whatever it was we would be doing, certainly helped.

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