Child Masks Difficulties

Many children with ASC/PDA can behave very differently with different people and in different situations.  They may be able to sufficiently hide their difficulties within the school setting and in other setting, such as when visiting relatives or going to a friends house.  This can cause real difficulties for the parents because they may often feel not believed, not listened to and unsupported by professionals, friends and family members.  Also this ability to mask is often at the expense of behaviour at home where the child will release this pent up anxiety.

Eventually a lack of support in school could lead to school refusal or at some stage behaviour within the school may deteriorate.   Alternatively some children may continue to mask but at the expense of behaviour at home.


It is common for children with ASC to mask their difficulties in school.  However ‘masking is not the same as coping’ (Neville Starnes, PDA Committee Member, 2015).

‘Many children with PDA are unable to cope with the demands of a first nursery or school. This could result in extreme displays of somewhat violent behaviour and multiple exclusions. However, some children cope reasonably well with the first year or two of school. Teachers may not feel that there is cause for concern at this stage, but may note playground problems and a low output of productive work. Even when few behavioural problems are evidenced in the classroom, many parents report a declining situation at home because children appear to ‘bottle up’ anxiety at school and release this built up tension later. Some children continue to mask their difficulties in school, and a few (as noted by Elizabeth Newson) may ‘take on the role of a compliant pupil’. However, for most, as demands of school increase more difficulties spill out in educational settings. Very often, once this does start, the rate of decline can catch everyone by surprise. Multiple exclusions are common. Frequently, schools are no longer able to cope and managed transfers to alternative provisions are made’ PDA Society, Clinicians Booklet,

‘On the one hand there are some children who seem to have learnt that keeping a low profile can reduce pressure and they are relatively compliant at school (usually, though, at the expense of behaving much worse at home).’ Phil Christie, Good Autism Practice Journal published by BILD, 2007

‘Children with PDA can also be very variable themselves in how they appear at different times, with different people and in various settings.’ (P Christie et al, Understanding PDA in Children, p.g.18)

Paper by Dr L Beardon explaining how children with ASC can hold in behaviours in school.

Blog Post

Informative blog post written by Dr Judy Eaton on the concept of masking children who mask or camouflage their autism and Masking in Boys


In this interview with Phil Christie and Ruth Fidler, Phil discusses how children with PDA can behave differently in different settings as a response to question 4 interview with Phil Christie and Ruth Fidler

I hope that the information shared in this post may offer you some evidence which you can share with teachers, relatives and friends.  Hopefully it may help them to understand that just because they can’t see your child’s difficulties it doesn’t mean that those difficulties are not there.

For more advice on PDA please view The PDA Society and The PDA Resource



About janesherwin

I am the parent of a child diagnosed with Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome. My hopes and aims are to raise awareness of this complex Autism Spectrum Condition presentation.
This entry was posted in 2. Education, 3. Strategies, Understanding, Resources, Discussion and More, 8. Child Masks Difficulties in School, Child Masks Difficulties, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Child Masks Difficulties

  1. Pingback: Child Masks Difficulties | Sensory Sensitive Mummy

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