In this episode, I’m bringing you a conversation with author and self-described “PDA Emissary” Harry Thompson. Harry is himself diagnosed with ADHD, Autism and Pathological Demand Avoidance and has found his life’s work in improving the lives of neurdivergent individuals and their families and in raising understanding and awareness of neurodiversity in general and of PDA in particular. In 2017, he began a YouTube channel, detailing his own lived-experiene with PDA, and is also the author of The PDA Paradox: The Highs and Lows of My Life on a Little-Known Part of the Autism Spectrum.
In our conversation, we initially set out to answer listener questions about PDA and, as you’ll hear, Harry’s own demand avoidance response instead led to a frank and thoughtful discussion about what it means to experience the world with a PDA profile. And while it was a different interview than what we planned, it felt very necessary and valuable to change course. I hope you’ll find it valuable as well.
About Harry: Harry Thompson was born in Edgeware and grew up in Barnet (North London). He is currently based in London, UK. An avid reader & researcher, Harry speaks publicly and is heavily involved in projects & research on all topics around neurodiversity and autism; namely, Pathological Demand Avoidance, a behaviour profile within the Autism Spectrum. He launched his YouTube channel in March of 2017 which has since amassed a strong following.
Harry began to write the first draft of his book in 2015. After connecting with many autistic & PDA families, he pivoted his direction and completed his book in about 6 weeks, a memoir entitled The PDA Paradox: The Highs and Lows of My Life on a Little-Known Part of the Autism Spectrum, published in February 2019 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Harry’s aim is simply to make the lives of neurodivergent individuals and their families, a little easier and enjoyable, and a little less chaotic and miserable. People are all too quick to label the neurodivergent child as broken, when really the neurodivergent child has buckled under the weight of a system that does not currently accommodate them, thus their gifts, merits and attributes are often obscured and their flaws are pronounced.
In his spare time, Harry plays both guitar & ukulele and sings as well. His musical gift is in his ear, as he is able to harmonise and work out songs quickly as opposed to composing. He meditates frequently and focuses on health & fitness. He is also a vegan but dislikes that label.
Harry is delighted to announce that he has been elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). He feels truly honoured by this. This is in recognition of his work in the field of PDA, and also in recognition of the publication of his book, The PDA Paradox, which has been deemed an outstanding contribution to our knowledge about PDA.
THINGS YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE:
- Harry’s personal experience with PDA and what led him to create a YouTube channel and ultimately write his book
- Why Harry advocates for understanding over strategies
- How Harry’s own PDA came into play in responding to the initial listener questions for this interview
- How parenting children with PDA can be a paradox
- What advice Harry offers the most often regarding schooling for children with a PDA profile, and why
- What is the most important thing that parents needs to ask themselves when approaching a potentional conflict with their PDA child
- How PDA differs from ODD, ADHD, and OCD
- The importance of description and detail as opposed to a diagnosis
- The PDA Paradox: the Highs and Lows of My Life on a Little-Known Part of the Autism Spectrum by Harry Thompson
- A Conversation with Dr. Melissa Neff about PDA (podcast episode)
- A Conversation with Autism and Neurodiversity Specialist Kristy Forbes (podcast episode)
- A Conversation Between Debbie Reber and Seth Perler For Teachers and School Administrators (podcast episode)
THANKS SO MUCH FOR LISTENING!
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