My Son May Have a Less-Known Profile of Autism

My wife first learned about it on YouTube

Scot Butwell
Human Parts
Published in
5 min readFeb 27, 2024

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My son and I taking a selfie.
Author photo: My son and me.

I’ve learned a lot about autism in the first ten and a half years of my son’s life. I haven’t been one of those parents who obsessively searches for therapies or cures online after receiving a diagnosis, looking for a quick “fix-it” solution. I thought I understood my son well until my wife learned about a little-known subtype of autism that’s diagnosed only in the UK called Pathological Demand Avoidance — PDA for short— a profile of autism identified 40 years ago by UK psychologist Elizabeth Ann Newson.

My wife found out about PDA through a UK woman’s YouTube channel. Her son reminded my wife of our son because both like to play pranks, and when the woman said her son had PDA, my wife instantly began researching it. Most of what she read described our son. It was “a light bulb moment” for my wife because the traits that never made any sense to her for an autism diagnosis were in alignment with PDA. Then, she invited me to watch a video with her, by Harry Thompson, to introduce me to PDA.

Harry begins by describing how he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, sometimes called high-functioning autism, at fourteen. He says it was a relief to have an explanation for why he was different, but the diagnosis didn’t feel right. A few years later, the…

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Scot Butwell
Human Parts

I am embarrassing according to teenage son. My jokes are terrible and I don't know when to stop annoying my son. I am the dad of an autistic son. A funny kid.