Perspectives on Demand Avoidance: Is it PDA, or something else?


Thursday & Friday, November 17 & 18, 2022

A two-day virtual conference hosted by POPARD, in collaboration with ACT

November 17, 2022 & November 18, 2022

9:00 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Presented by:
Laura Kerbey BSc, PGCE (Autism)
Ross W. Greene, PhD
Phil Christie, CPsychol, AFBPsS
Merrill Winston, PhD, BCBA-D

The aim of this conference is to inform, educate, and encourage dialogue amongst professionals from diverse theoretical and clinical backgrounds on demand avoidance among children.

Web stream this event from anywhere in the world.
Recording available for two weeks after the event.
For information on bursaries for low-income individuals or Indigenous community members, see ACT’s Bursary page.

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About the Event

Task avoidance or refusal among children is common.  Educators have students who avoid certain subjects. Parents endure the frustration of children who will do anything BUT their homework. However, for some autistic students, these behaviors can be more intense.  Providing additional supports for tasks that are difficult for the student is usually sufficient to obtain their cooperation. However, there are students whose avoidance or refusal is excessive and can cause extreme challenges for their caregivers, both at home and in school, threatening their opportunities for community inclusion as well as an education.

Various terms have been used to describe the cluster of behaviors observed in these students, including “non-compliant”, “defiant”, “oppositional” (including “Oppositional Defiant Disorder”) as well as the increasing use of the term “Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)”.  While PDA is not a widely accepted diagnosis, whatever we call these intense behaviors, affected students need the people around them to better understand effective treatment strategies.

This two-day, virtual conference aims to inform, educate, and encourage dialogue amongst professionals from diverse theoretical and clinical backgrounds on this topic. Our presenters will share insights through the lens of their specific disciplines and present their varied approaches to helping students who present with these difficulties. This conference will provide an opportunity to deepen your understanding of how to develop effective strategies to provide support to students, their school and clinical teams, and their families. 

POPARD and ACT are pleased to host this important event, and honoured to welcome four internationally renowned clinicians who will present over two days:

Laura Kerbey is an Autism and Education Consultant with over 20 years of experience in the United Kingdom. She will explain what PDA is, and isn't, and discuss the approaches that can be helpful for education staff to implement to help learners with PDA thrive in educational settings. She will make the case that high anxiety is key to the difficulties that those with PDA have when faced with everyday demands, resulting in behaviors that are challenging to others. Laura will explain why strategies to support those with PDA are different to the strategies that can be effective for individuals with other forms of autism.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will:

  • Understand what Pathological Demand Avoidance is and is not.
  • Understand the impact that PDA has on individuals.
  • Be able to support and communicate effectively with individuals who have PDA.
  • Understand the affect that PDA has on learning and reduce its impact.

Laura Kerbey Biography:

Laura Kerbey is a co-founder of NEST (Neurodivergent Education Support and Training), Healthy Happy Me and KITE Therapeutic Learning in the United Kingdom. She has been working with autistic children and young people for over 20 years. She has been the Autism Champion for the Surrey College Network, eventually becoming Head Teacher at an independent special school for autistic children. NEST runs online support meetings, workshops and conferences for parents, carers and professionals and provides one to one advice to parents on neurodivergent family life and education. She works closely with autistic children and teenagers, providing emotional and behavioural support as well as coaching autistic adults on employment, relationships, and identity. She also works as part of a multidisciplinary team that assesses children for autism with PDA. Laura also consults to schools and universities, to ensure that the needs of autistic learners are fully met. In March 2020, Laura spoke at the first ever conference on PDA in the United States and is now an advisor for PDA North America. She is the author of “The Educator’s Experience of PDA” which will be published by Jessica Kingsley Publishing in 2023.

Laura has a degree in Psychology, a Post Graduate Certificate in Special Education Autism, as well as a Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and NOCN Level 3 Certificate in Working with Students with ADHD.

Dr. Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) model focuses on solving problems rather than on modifying behavior, emphasizes collaborative rather than unilateral solutions, encourages proactive rather than reactive intervention, de-emphasizes diagnostic categories, and provides practical, research-based tools for assessment and intervention. The CPS model has transformed thinking and practices in countless families, schools, inpatient psychiatry units, and juvenile detention facilities internationally. It is associated with dramatic reductions in adult-child conflict, concerning behaviors, restraints, and seclusions. Participants will leave with an understanding of the underpinnings of the model, its practical assessment and intervention tools, and its application to individuals diagnosed with PDA.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the five paradigm shifts of the CPS model, and how the model focuses on problems (and solving them) rather than on the behaviors that are being caused by those problems (and modifying them); the advantages of collaborative (rather than unilateral) problem solving; and the importance and feasibility of proactive (rather than reactive) intervention.
  • Identify the lagging skills that are involved in solving problems, handling frustration, being flexible and adaptable, and regulating emotions, and the unsolved problems that are causing concerning behaviors.
  • Describe the three basic mechanisms by which adults handle unsolved problems and unmet expectations in kids (Plans A, B, and C) and what is accomplished by each.
  • Describe the three steps of Plan B and how to effectively implement Plan B and the various roadblocks that can occur in implementation (and how to overcome them).

Ross Greene Biography:

CPS is the model Ross Greene describes in his influential books The Explosive Child, Lost at School, Lost & Found, and Raising Human Beings. Ross served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years. He is founding director of the non-profit Lives in the Balance (, which disseminates the CPS model and supports caregivers through free web-based resources; advocates on behalf of kids with concerning behaviors and their caregivers; and advocates for systemic changes to encourage the use of non-punitive, non-exclusionary interventions. He is adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. Dr. Greene’s research has been funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Mental Health and U.S. Department of Education. He lectures and consults extensively to families, schools, inpatient psychiatric units, and residential and juvenile detention facilities throughout the world.

The presentation will give an overview of the history and current thinking about the profile of PDA focusing on clinical and research perspectives. It will include the author’s involvement as a close colleague of Prof Elizabeth Newson, who first identified and described PDA, and will draw on extensive personal experience of working in specialist autism settings and as part of a PDA development group in the UK. The presentation will include examples from the lived experiences of young people with a PDA profile, their families, teachers and clinicians.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will have:

  • Gained a clearer understanding of the PDA profile and how it presents in individuals.
  • Gained awareness of some of the latest research and thinking around PDA.
  • Better understand the support needs of families of children and young people with a PDA profile.
  • Gain an overview of strategies and approaches that have been reported to be helpful in supporting children with a PDA profile.
  • Considered ways of promoting emotional well-being, building self awareness and enhancing emotional regulation.

Phil Christie Biography:

Phil Christie, Chartered Psychologist, is a Consultant Child Psychologist who works both independently and with colleagues as part of Autism Associates. Director of Children’s Services for a regional autism charity for over 30 years, he oversaw a specialist school for pupils with autism. He was also lead consultant at the Elizabeth Newson Centre, which specialized in clinical and research work around PDA. Phil is an Associate Editor of ‘Good Autism Practice’ and is Vice Chair of the Autism Education Trust programme board. In addition to extensive involvement in training on ASD across the UK and internationally, Phil has published widely in the field of autism and has co-authored a number of books including:

  • Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome in Children. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011  
  • Collaborative Approaches to Learning for pupils with PDA. Strategies for Education Professionals. (with Ruth Fidler) Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2019.

This talk will provide tips on working with individuals in Exceptional Student Education (ESE) programs who are highly motivated to escape from academic tasks in classroom settings, including:

  • How to analyze WHY a child wants to escape from a task.
  • Using reinforcers effectively; including finding reinforcers, rate of reinforcement, reinforcer interruption, differential reinforcement, and increasing tolerance to reinforcer removal and to delay of reinforcement.
  • How to alter “educational discriminative stimuli” to decrease the probability of escape.
  • What to do with task avoidant juggernauts.
  • What to do about the “Sd voice” (discriminative stimulus), which some may call a "poisoned cue" and how to fix this very common problem.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to:

  • Explain the basic formula for producing escape using a see-saw analogy.
  • List four quick fixes for escape.
  • Identify at least three problems that can happen when using reinforcement and how to avoid them.
  • Explain the concept of reinforcer interruption (as opposed to first task then SR+) and why it may prove a better strategy for increasing on-task behavior.
  • What the Sd voice is, why it is actually an S minus voice, and how to fix the problem.

Merrill Winston Biography:

Dr. Winston is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst who has worked for over 20 years in varied environments from group homes to secure facilities, as well as in homes and schools. Those he works with have a range of diagnoses, including those who are non-verbal, as well as behavior problems that range from mild to life-threatening. Dr. Winston’s primary areas of interests are crisis prevention and intervention; psychotropic medication usage with special populations and the development and implementation of training programs designed to increase the skill levels of parents, professionals, teachers, and direct-care staff. Dr. Winston’s goal when working with clients with behavior problems is not the simple reduction or elimination of the problem per se, instead he attempts to define and manage and/or solve the problems faced by individuals with special needs and their families.


  Date Registration Cost
Early Bird Rate ends October 27, 2022 $75
Regular Rate ends November 14, 2022 $100

*Last day to register is November 14, 2022

Questions? Email

Group Discounts

Receive a 10% discount when registering 3 or more attendees at the same time.


ACT provides bursary funds from our own resources and through support from private donors. Anyone wishing to attend an ACT event is eligible to apply if the cost is a barrier to attending the event. Bursaries are provided as reduced event registration fees. You are encouraged to apply as soon as possible as bursary funds are limited. Visit ACT's Event Bursary page for more information on our bursary programs. Donate to our bursary fund.

Complete ACT's Bursary Form to apply before November 10, 2022 at 4:30pm. If you identify as Indigenous, or work for an Indigenous organization, complete our Bursary Form for Indigenous Community.

Autism Funding

If you wish to use your child’s Autism Funding to pay for your registration, ACT can invoice the Autism Funding Branch directly. If you are paying in advance to be reimbursed, you must contact the Autism Funding Branch for approval first.

For information on how to register with your Autism Funding, visit Workshop Registration Using Autism Funding.



Registration closed Monday, November 14 at 11:59 pm Pacific time.

Level Introductory/Intermediate

Focus Children with demand avoidance

For Community Professionals & Educators

Autism-Specific? No

Event Schedule

All times are Pacific Time Zone.
Presenters will have a 30-minute Q&A period as part of their presentation

Day 1 - November 17, 2022

9:00 am - 11:00 am Laura Kerbey

Supporting Learners with Pathological Demand Avoidance

11:00 am - 12:00 pm Break
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm Ross Greene

Collaborative & Proactive Solutions - Moving from Power and Control to Collaboration and Problem-Solving

Day 2 - November 18, 2022

9:00 am - 11:00 am Phil Christie

Understanding and supporting children and young people with a PDA profile

11:00 am - 12:00 pm Break
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm Merrill Winston

ESE Wars Episode III - The Return of Darth Task Evader - an analysis of escape-maintained behavior

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