As a specialist tutor, I have worked with many students who have anxiety related to learning and many might use distraction techniques or negotiate with me about what they’d like to do and when they’d like to do it.  As a 1:1 tutor I appreciate I have the luxury of being able to offer more flexibility for my learners. It’s my role to engage students and help them over come any anxiety.

However, what happens when you’ve tried every ‘trick in the book’ yet you still can’t engage a student, you are met with melt downs like you’ve never experienced and point blank refusal to complete any work.  At this point you’ve completely ran out of bargaining tools and reward systems.

I experienced this and it honestly made me question my role as a specialist teacher.  I questioned why I could not engage this student and why some times my reward systems worked and other days there was no way in this world I was going to get even a response from my student.  I started to look around to see how I could find better reward systems.  It was at this point I learned about Pathological Demand Avoidance.  The description totally described my student.  I knew I had to learn more.

Since then I’ve learned more and know I still need to learn more if I am to offer my students the best learning experience. I’ve invited Ruth Fidler to present on Autism and PDA and SEN Jigsaw on Saturday June 8th in Stoke on Trent.  Here’s what she told us:

I am an Education Consultant specialising in complex autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), interactive approaches and emotional well being.

Ruth Fidler

Ruth Fidler

I worked at an all age non-maintained special school for 94 pupils across the autism spectrum for 22 years until 2014 and have worked independently since then. During my time on the senior leadership team the school sustained Ofsted outstanding status. I worked within the school promoting interactive approaches and emotional well being for pupils with complex autism. As a member of the leadership team I had a strategic role and contributed to continuing professional development for all staff. I also led an outreach pilot project working with other agencies to meet the needs of children and young people currently unable to attend school.

As well as providing training, I regularly observe and monitors teaching and learning, supporting staff to embed and refine good autism and SEND practice.

I regularly presents at local and national events and conferences for parents and a range of professionals. I provide training and consultancy for a variety of schools and services across the UK and with organisations including the Autism Education Trust, the National Autistic Society and the PDA Society. I am also a member of the National Autism and Girls Forum and the National PDA development group.

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I have contributed to publications in the Good Autism Practice (GAP) journal on the subject of promoting emotional wellbeing and is co-author of the following books; ‘Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome in children’ (2012), ‘Can I Tell You About Pathological Demand Avoidance?’ (2015) Collaborative Approaches to Learning (2019) and Girls and Autism (2019)

You have clearly built up a real body of work in the field of Autism. Why do you do what you do?

Put simply, I am very lucky to have been able to build a career doing something I love. I am motivated by seeking to make a positive difference to children and young people, to their families and to the adults who support them. I am able to draw on nearly 30 years of experience, but it should also be said that I invariably learn more from all sorts of individuals I meet.

Where can our readers see you speak about PDA and Autism?

I will be delivering a plenary talk entitled “Understanding and supporting pupils with Pathological Demand Avoidance” at the SEN Jigsaw Conference on June 8th in Stoke-on-Trent.

I will help delegates to gain a better understanding of Pathological Demand Avoidance profiles and more importantly, of ways to support this group of vulnerable youngsters in terms of their well-being and their access to learning.

That sounds really interesting. What will the delegates gain from attending your talk?

Delegates will develop an understanding of Pathological Demand Avoidance profiles and the implications for individuals, for families and for education practitioners working with these pupils. They will learn strategies and approaches to enhance their practice and to promote engagement with learning and emotional well-being for pupils.

How can our readers find out more about you?

Your readers can find out more about me by looking at the Autism Associates website or my Linkedin profile, or by looking at publications on Jessica Kingsley Publishers website (

Along with Ruth Fidler we will also have Dyscalculia specialist Peter Jarrett, as key speakers.

In the afternoon we will have workshops in Dyslexia, Assistive Software, Language Development, An Autism Friendly Classroom, Dyspraxia and Auditory Processing Difficulties.

There will be a number of SEN exhibitors too.

Parents and education professionals will be assured a very warm welcome. A professional yet relaxed conference. Booking essential by 29th May 2019.

Did you miss our event last year? Here’s a link to SEN Jigsaw 2018