Psychological Assessment & Expert Witness Assessment

Our Articles About Psychological Assessment & Expert Witness Assessment Will Teach Everything You Need to Know.

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Expert Witness Psychologists

Expert Witness Psychologists

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the science of mental life. The discipline is of relevance to professionals working in various areas of the legal profession.


How Expert Witness Psychologists Assist in Criminal Proceedings

Expert Witness Psychologists are often called on by criminal law experts to advise on whether an individual needs an intermediary to participate fairly in the proceedings as either a defendant or a witness for the prosecution. Psychologists often indicate whether an individual needs further evaluation to determine whether they are fit to plead. Additionally, psychologists may be able to advise the court whether an individual was culpable of an offence that they have been charged with because of an underlying psychological condition.

Psychologist expert witnesses are often called to give evidence in parole hearings, and advise parole boards whether a prisoner is suitable for parole.

How Expert Witness Psychologists Assist in Employment Tribunal Proceedings

Psychologist expert witnesses also assist in employment tribunal proceedings. They are often called on to advise on whether an assessment selection process or redundancy process was discriminatory. They also advise Employment Tribunal is on whether or not the claimant before the tribunal had a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. Individuals in the workplace often suffer from a wide range of disabilities including, depression, anxiety, dyslexia, and ADHD. These disabilities are often hidden but in certain situations can adversely affect individuals gaining employment and staying in a job.

How Expert Witness Psychologists Assist in Personal Injury Proceedings

In personal injury proceedings, expert witness psychologists are often called on to assess the cause of psychological trauma, determine how long it will take the claimant to recover. Expert psychologists working in this area frequently carry out neuropsychological assessments of brain injury. In all areas where psychological is carried out expert psychologists will often see to validate the findings by using a range of psychological techniques to detect malingering, and symptom exaggeration.

How Expert Witnesses Psychologists Help In Care Proceedings and in The Family Court

Psychologist expert witnesses are often called upon by social services departments and families in private and public law care proceedings. They carry out assessments of fitness to parent, whether the child subject to the proceedings has been harmed or is likely to be harmed by the parents or the likely disputes that have taken place between the parents. They are frequently asked by both social services departments, fathers and mothers to determine the level of attachment and to advise whether the child has suffered parental alienation (pathogenic parenting).

In family law cases, expert psychologists often carry out risk assessments to determine whether the child would be at risk if there was unsupervised contact unsupervised contact

How Expert Witness Psychologists Assist In Housing Law and Possession Proceedings

Individuals who are subject to possession proceedings, frequently lack the capacity to make a proper defence and conduct their own affairs including issues that might put them at risk of being evicted. Such action can be discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010. Expert psychologists can often advise in these cases, for example where depression or conditions such as hoarding disorder impacts on the ability of the tenant to manage their property.

How Expert Witness Psychologists Help In Education Law

In education cases, expert witness psychologists often assist parents by carrying out assessments to ensure the relevant child has an appropriate Educational and Health Care Plan. Additionally, Expert witness psychologists appear in Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal’s, and also provide evidence in judicial review proceedings when parents challenged the educational provision offered to the child.

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Immigration Psychologists

Psychological Assessments of Deportation and Immigration

Deportation may have many adverse psychological effects; it can result in trauma and stigma which is caused by hardship and being unable to maintain contact with key family members.

Many people may be returned to harsh environments where they may be subject to torture and psychological and physical harm.

There is typically psychological stress, depression and anxiety associated with deportations. The trauma also adversely affects academic performance with children often becoming withdrawn after the deportation. Children might start to engage in self-destructive behaviours, inflict self-harm, become distressed, and exhibit other mental health conditions. There may be disturbances in sleeping patterns; some children may become more aggressive. The psychological effects include mistrust, fearfulness and becoming hypervigilant. Children often experience a sense of shame and secrecy.

Individuals who feel targeted may stop participating in community life; they may move away from the support systems that kept their families psychologically healthy.

These negative psychological consequences may continue even after the children are reunited with their families. Family members often must take on jobs to make up for the lost income of the primary breadwinner.

Our expert psychologists can help by assessing families who are subject to immigration proceedings and providing evidence to the tribunal on how deportation may impact on the psychological well-being of those affected by immigration and deportation proceedings.

Immigration Psychological Assessments

Life in the UK Test – Reasonable Adjustments and Exemptions

Dyslexic people may be able to receive reasonable adjustments for The Life in the UK Test. To receive such an adjustment, one would need to provide evidence of your dyslexia. Reasonable adjustments include:

  • Hundred per cent extra time;

  • An online test with a reader and scribe who will select the answers as given by the examinee;

  • A British Sign Language Interpreter;

  • A session alone with no other candidates;

  • The use of a coloured overlay on the screen; and

  • Special equipment such as a larger screen and ergonomic mouse.

If you have a mental health condition, you may be exempt from completing the whole of the Life in the UK Test. Our expert psychologists would need to carry out an assessment to determine whether the candidate has a qualifying mental health condition

Find out More About the Psychology of Deportation

Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychologists Help Criminal Justice Processionals

Investigative psychologists (IPs) can bring a variety of objective psychological techniques to help defence and prosecution lawyers with the assessment and improvement of investigative information.

Investigative Psychologist’s Areas expertise

Investigative psychologist can assist the criminal defence and prosecution by:


Offender profiling:

An objective examination of the styles and patterns of criminal action to infer offender’s psychological and social characteristics. It is important to distinguish the approach used by investigative psychologists from the more subjective approaches profiling approaches used by the FBI.

Geographical profiling:

Assessment of where is the offender probably lives by analysing the geographical pattern of offences.

Linking cases (comparative case analysis):

Application of statistical techniques to link offence styles to crimes that are likely to have been committed by the same offender. Examining the salience of the action to distinguish one offender from another (Canter and Youngs, 2003, p.324). Multi-dimensional scaling and the Narrative Action System Model can help differentiating criminals' styles of offending, allowing empirically-based 'modus operandi' to be identified within a broad range of offence types (Canter & Youngs, 2009, p.163). Profiling equations provide the scientific basis for inferring associations between the actions that occur during the offence, the characteristics of the offender, including the offender's criminal history, background, base location, and relationships with others (Canter & Youngs, 2016).

Network analysis:

Network analysis to understand the development and relationships within terrorist and criminal networks.


Prediction of when and where the offender will strike again and whether the severity of offences is likely to increase.

Decision support (investigative support action plans):

Advising on how the investigative decision-making process can be improved by improving social and psychological processes. And for criminal defence lawyers, critiquing where the decision support is flawed.


Advising on which aspects of the crime to focus on to identify the type of individual who might have committed the offence (Canter & Youngs, 2003, p.323).

Evaluation of information:

Advising what information should be assessed as well as the harnessing of information from other public and private sources to understand the cognitive and social processes involved. Determining which sources of information, such as data bases, informants, police records or information from the general public is likely to identify the offender.

Suspect Prioritisation:

By mapping each suspect’s personal characteristics and behavioural patterns to an analysis of the crime.

Statement Validation:

Objective evaluation the evidence including false allegations, false confessions, eyewitness testimony, detecting deception. Evaluation of other aspects of the validity and reliability of information by systematic scrutiny and improvement, particularly by drawing on psychometric tools.

Interviewing Strategies:

Advising on the most effective approach to interviewing suspects (including those with learning disabilities), witnesses and victims using techniques such as the cognitive interview to improve recall (Canter & Youngs 2009, p.217 – 220).

Case Preparation:

By identifying making sense of a case and advising on how to present it in court. Empirically based psychological theories can be used to structure legal cases and improve the quality of arguments.

Investigative Psycholinguistics:

Making inferences from what people have written or said.

Psychological Autopsy:

Making an evaluation of the type of person the deceased was from an interview with others.

Using Forensic Psychology Research Findings:

Using forensic psychology to studies to resolve the issues in dispute and to provide a framework for the processes that police and defence solicitors must go through to solve the crime.

Forensic Psychology and Investigative Psychology and the Courts - Conclusion

While many may argue that the crimes can be solved by courts using experience alone the literature (e.g., Canter & Youngs 2009) confirms that investigative psychologists can offer more effective methods of crime detection than traditional police investigative techniques. The objectively that IP brings results in faster detection of criminals; and the acquittal of those who are innocent; better evidence and more robust cases than can be achieved by traditional criminal defence and prosecution methods alone.

Find Out More About Forensic Psychology

Offender Profiling and Crime Analysis

What is Geographical Offender Profiling?

Geographical profiling is the study of criminal spatial behaviour, the development of decision support tools that incorporate research findings, studies of the effectiveness of these applications and exploration as to how such tools can help the police investigation. There are two fundamental approaches to geographic profiling (a) that individuals have a mental map of the areas and (b) route finding ability.

How Can Geographic Profiling Help the Police?

Geographic profiling:

  • helps with prioritisation of offenders;

  • gives guidance on where to seek intelligence;

  • links crime to a common perpetrator;

  • predicts where the next crime is likely to take place; and

  • possibly links the geographical style to an offender.

Geographical Offender Profiling Map

Offender Profiling
1 Red = The Most Probable Search Area where the Offender's Home Will Be Found
2 Magenta = Second Most Probable Search Area where the Offender's Home Will Be Found
3 Green = Third Most Probable Search Area where the Offender's Home Will Be Found
4 Blue = Fourth Most Probable Search Area where the Offender's Home Will Be Found
5 Cyan = Fifth Most Probable Search Area where the Offender's Home Will Be Found
6 Yellow = Sixth Most Probable Search Area where the Offender's Home Will Be Found
7 Aqua = Seventh Most Probable Search Area where the Offender's Home Will Be Found

The relevant theories underlying geographic profiling, as they apply to offender profiling are now discussed.

Routine Activity Theory (Cohen & Felson, 1979).

‘Routine Activity Theory (R.A.T.)’ proposes that for a crime to occur there are three necessary components, which must converge in time and space:

  1. the presence of a likely offender (an individual who is motivated to commit a crime);

  2. a suitable target (e.g. something valuable and accessible); and

  3. the absence of a capable guardian (e.g. security guard, policeman, citizen).

The movement of people throughout their daily routine activities generates such convergences, and thus influences the likelihood and risk of crime over time. The approach focuses on the discovery of “opportunities” in the form of victims and targets during non-criminal activities.

Crime Pattern Theory (Brantingham & Brantingham, 1981).

Brantingham & Brantingham drew heavily from R.A.T. to propose that individuals develop an awareness of space; an area of familiarity, during their day-to-day activities, and that this governs the geographic patterning of their criminal and non-criminal behaviour. Awareness spaces include nodes (the places that people travel to and from, e.g. home, work or friend’s house), paths (the routes between the nodes) and edges (the boundaries of the region of familiarity).

Rational Choice Theory (Cornish & Clarke, 1986)

Rational Choice Theory’ proposes that the decision to offend is purposeful and rational, and is made by weighing up the pros or gains (e.g. personal, financial) associated with a crime against the cons or costs (e.g. the risks involved). These decisions are governed by environmental cues, and the rational consideration of the efforts, rewards and costs associated with potential crime locations. Lundrigan & Canter (2001a) assert models of rational choice are concerned with offences such as burglary and robbery, which are instrumental. Lundrigan & Canter (2001a) also state that the rational choice explanation of spatial behaviour involves the making of decisions and choices which exhibit a trade-off between increased opportunity and greater reward the further an offender travels from home, as well as the cost of time and effort and risk. The benefits of a criminal action are the net rewards of crime and include not only material rewards but also intangible benefit such as emotional satisfaction. The costs or risks of crime are those associated with formal punishment should the offender be apprehended. Lundrigan & Canter (2001a) note the concept of limited rationality best explains spatial behaviour of offenders. Offenders do not consider all the relevant factors every time an offence is considered, other influences (moods, motives, perceptions of opportunity, alcohol, and their appetite for risk) apparently unconnected to the decision at hand take over. Offenders are, therefore, behaving rationally as they see at the time. What is considered rational may change over time.

Propinquity and Morphology

Canter, Hammond, Youngs, & Juszezak (2012) say there are two fundamental aspects of offenders’ geographical activities that allow inferences of their most likely home base or location to be inferred from mapping the locations of their offences. The first is propinquity, which is the tendency for the probability of the crime locations to reduce incrementally as the distance from the offender’s home/base increases, often depicted as an aggregate decay function. The other factor is morphology; this is the tendency for offences to be distributed around the offender’s home or base. Morphology relates to structure whereas propinquity relates to closeness. Propinquity deals with the proximity of crime locations to the main places in the offender’s life, notably his/her home, or base.

The Circle Hypothesis

The Circle Hypothesis builds on the idea of there being a simple starting point and to see if the offender would have a base within this area. It is not always clear how large the circle is, and it does not always follow that the offender has a base at the centre of the circle. However, the circle hypotheses is a predictor of the home location. Outliers have a significant impact on the size of the circle. The home base is typically where the individual sleeps, but this ultimately depends on the type of offender. Circle theory proposes that geographical profiling and individual offender profiling behaviour assumes that an offender’s home base will be central to their crimes.

Canter & Gregory (1994) found that individuals tend to offend close to locations in which they live. Offenders when travelling around their home area find places where crimes can be committed. Brantingham & Brantingham (1981) argue that the concentration of criminal activity around the home is influenced by biased information flows. More information will be available at locations close to the home base it is, therefore, more probable that offenders will be aware of criminal opportunities in these areas.

Brantingham & Brantingham (1981) contend that the security of the offender’s home range and the familiarity of the area outweighs the risk of recognition in regions that are not in the immediate area of the offender’s home base. Familiarity is thus a determining factor of where criminals will commit crimes. There are both maximum and minimum distances from an offender’s home/base to the area in which they offend. According to Canter & Gregory (1994), the literature supports the idea that a criminal forms a mental map of his home range. This mental map probably influences criminal and non-criminal spatial activity of offenders.

Criminals tend not to travel far to commit the first offence; a ‘buffer zone’ exists around the offender’s home where the offender is unlikely to engage in criminal acts because of the risk of identification (Brantingham & Brantingham,1981; Canter & Larkin,1993). Fritzon (2001) argues that the spatial behaviour of burglars is more random because essentially opportunity to commit burglary exists everywhere. The location of their crime site, therefore, might be expected to be more dependent on concerns about detection or opportunistic factors such as coming across a house which is unoccupied and does not present environmental or psychological obstacles against being burgled.

Canter and Larkin (1993) found that the home was a location within the crime circle and is likely to be close to the centre of that circle. The average distance of offences to home for offenders studied by Canter and Larkin (1993) was 1.53 miles. Criminals typically travel further away from home at some stages of their offending careers.

Canter and Larkin found that the diameter of the circle was the distance between the two furthermost crimes to define the area found in most the cases the offender lived in the area circumscribed by their crimes. The circle consists of the smallest area incorporating all the crimes. This research has been extended so that a prediction of the offender home location can be derived from any given series by:

  1. defining the criminal range for that series using the smallest possible circle that encapsulates all the crime locations; and

  2. treating the centre of that circle as the most probable location for the offender’s residence.

Marauders and commuters.

Commuters commit crime around an area that they have some familiarity with but this is well away from their home location. Marauders commit crimes that are more spread out. The assumptions underlying the marauderer model are:

  1. the opportunity for crimes is evenly distributed;

  2. the offender does have a base within the area of the crimes;

  3. the tendency to put distance between adjacent offences;

  4. offender feels vulnerable in the area of previous offences; and

  5. no very precise targeting.

The Consistency Hypothesis.

The consistency hypothesis posits that criminals will carry out similar level crimes. They are more likely to live near the centre of the crime because they are more likely to know the area quite well and, therefore, there are more crimes committed in the area. The Spatial Consistency Hypothesis is that offenders will only commit an offence in an area that they know.

References and Recommendations for Further Reading

Bennell, C. Snook, B., Taylor, P. J., Corey., S. Keyton, J (2007) It’s no riddle choose the middle: effect of number of crimes and topographical detail on police officer predications of serial burglars’ home locations. Criminal Justice Behaviour. 34(1) 119 – 132

Bennett T., & Wright, R. (1984) Burglars on burglary: prevention and the offender. Aldershot, Hants: Gower

Block, R. & Bernasco,W. Finding a serial burglar’s home using distance decay and origin destination patterns: a test of empirical Bayes journey-to-crime estimation in the Hague. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 6(3) 187 – 211

Brantingham, P. J. and Brantingham, P. L (1981) Notes on the geometry of crime. In: Environmental Criminology, Edited by Brantingham P.J and Brantingham P. L. Beverley Hills: Sage; 27 - 54.

Canter, D. V. (1977) The Psychology of Place. London: Architectural Press.

Canter, D. V. (2007) Mapping murder: the secrets of geographical profiling. London: Virgin

Canter, D. V, & Gregory, A. (1994). Identifying the residential location of rapists. Journal of the Forensic Society, 34(3), 169-175. doi: 1016/S0015-7368(94) 72910-8

Canter, D. V. Hammond, L., Youngs, D. E, & Juszczak, P (2013). The efficacy of ideographic models for geographical offender profiling. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 29, 423 – 446.

Canter, D. V., & Larkin, P. (1993). The environmental range of serial rapists. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 13, 63– 69

Canter, D. V. & Youngs, D. E. (2009). Investigative Psychology: offender profiling and the analysis of criminal action. Chichester, John Wiley & Sons.

Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979) Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review. 44(4) 588 – 608

Cornish, D. B., & Clarke, R. V. (1986). The Reasoning Criminal: rational choice perspectives on offending. New York: Springer

Fritzon, K. (2010). An examination of the relationship between distance travelled and motivational aspects of firesetting behaviour. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21(1), 45 – 60 doi. 10.1006/jevp.2000.0197

Lundrigan, S., & Canter, D. V. (2001a). A multivariate analysis of serial murderer’s disposal site location choice. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21, 423 – 432.

Lundrigan, S., & Canter, D. V. (2001b). Spatial patterns of serial murder: an analysis of disposal site location choice. Behavioural Sciences and the Law, 19, 595 – 610. doi:10.1002/bsl.431.

Paulsen, D. (2006). Human vs machine: a comparison of the accuracy of geographic profiling methods. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling. 3(2) 77 – 89

Snook, B. Canter, D. V., & Bennell, C (2002). Predicting the home location of serial offenders: a preliminary comparison of the accuracy of human judges with a geographic profiling system. Behavioural Sciences and the Law. 20, 109 – 118

Find Out More About Offender Profiling

Mental Health Law

Mental Health and the Law

There is a strong relationship between mental health and the law, as far as the rights of people with mental illness is concerned the World Health Organisation outline 10 basic principles that should protect the rights of people with mental illness:

Mental Health Care Law: 10 Basic Principles - World Health Organisation

  • The promotion of mental health and prevention of mental disorders.
  • Access to basic mental health care.
  • Mental health assessments in accordance with internationally accepted principles.
  • Provision of the least restrictive type of mental health care
  • Self-determination
  • Right to be assisted in the exercise of self-determination
  • Availability of review procedure
  • Automatic periodical review mechanism
  • There must be a qualified decision-maker to detain the person
  • Respect for the rule of law.

Psychology and the Law

Expert Psychologists who work with individuals who have mental illnesses frequently have two provide expert opinion for the prosecution and defence in criminal cases.

Mental health law includes areas such as the insanity plea, fitness to stand trial and testamentary capacity. Mental health law is also concerned with establishing mens rea and culpability, and compulsory detention.
The intersection between mental health and the law is further developing in the area of forensic evaluation of children and adolescents in child custody, its application to delinquency, maltreatment, personal injury and court-ordered evaluations.

The Mental Health Act 1983

How is Section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983 Used?

Section 2 of the Mental Health Act provides the ability of mental health professionals to detain and treat people under the Mental Health Act When they are too unwell to care for or make decisions for themselves. The purpose of Section 2 is to ask the patient to come into the hospital for an assessment to determine whether they have a severe end enduring mental illness. Their detention is in the interest of their own health and safety or the protection of other people. Admission under Section 2 normally lasts for 28 days.

How is Section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 Used?

A Section 3 of the Mental Health Act is commonly known as a Treatment Order. This means the patient is compulsorily treated in hospital when certain conditions are met. These are that the individual is suffering from a mental disorder which is of such a degree that warrants the person being compulsorily detained in hospital. There must be a risk to the person or other people. The other conditions are, the treatment cannot be given without the Section 3 being in place, and there must be appropriate treatment available. Detention under Section 3 of the MHA can last up to 6 months.

What Does it Mean to be Sectioned Under the Mental Health Act?

ASD Assessment

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

People with autism exhibit the severity of autistic symptoms on a spectrum. The lowest level of the autism spectrum is Level 1 (high functioning autism sometimes called Asperger Syndrome). At the opposite end of the spectrum are individuals at Level 3, these individuals require substantial support.

Figure 1: Autism Spectrum

Autism Symptoms

ASD Assessment

The symptoms of autism displayed may vary according to age, intelligence and whether the individual can speak or not. The key characteristics in the ASD assessment process are summarised below using the framework developed in the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (Second Edition). This framework is closely aligned to the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (Fifth Edition) (DSM-5).

Please note that autism can often cooccur with other conditions such as ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, learning disabilities and anxiety.

A. Autistic Language and Communication

Speech Abnormalities

Some people with ASD have speech that has little variation in pitch and tone, rather flat or exaggerated intonation. Sometimes it can be speech that is somewhat unusual or slow or jerky. At the opposite end of the spectrum are individuals with phase speech which is inadequate in complexity or frequency. Some individuals with autism do not speak at all.


My individuals with ASD show immediate repetition of the last statement or series of statements given by others.

Stereotyped/Idiosyncratic Use of Words or Phrases

People with ASD range from those who use words or phrases which tend to be more repetitive than most. At the other end of the spectrum are individuals who occasionally use stereotyped words.


Individuals with ASD range from those who speech include some spontaneous elaboration of responses to those with little spontaneous communicative speech.


Some people with autism use pointing to reference objects and express interest, they do so without coordinated gaze or vocalisation.

Descriptive Gestures

Many individuals with autism use some descriptive gestures to represent an event such as brushing one’s teeth or combing one’s hair. Others use very limited conventional or descriptive gestures.

Offers Information

An individual with ASD may spontaneously offer information at one end of the spectrum. At the other end of the ASD spectrum, an individual may rarely offer information except about their circumscribed interests.

Asks for Information

At one end of the ASD spectrum, individuals may occasionally ask for information. At the other end, the individual will rarely or never ask others about feelings or experiences.

Reports Events

Some people with autism can report specific nonroutine events. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some individuals provide inconsistent or insufficient responses to even specific probes.


Individuals vary from those who can engage in dialogue to those who have little spontaneous communicative speech.

Descriptive Gestures

At one extreme some individuals make spontaneous use of several descriptive gestures. At the other end, there is very limited spontaneous use of conventional, instrumental, informal or descriptive gestures.

Emphatic or Emotional Gestures

There is a spectrum of abilities with some people able to show a variety of appropriate and emphatic and emotional gestures that are integrated to speech. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those that show no or a very limited emphatic or emotional gestures.


B. Reciprocal Social Interaction

Some Individuals Display Poor Eye Contact

Some individuals with ASD display poor eye contact to modulate or terminate social interactions.

Ability to Direct Facial Expressions Appropriately

Some individuals with autism do not direct their facial expressions to other people when communicating appropriately.

Ability to Show Pleasure and Shared Enjoyment and Interaction

Some individuals with ASD can show pleasure during more than one activity. Some people with autism may have little or no expressed pleasure in interactions.

Ability to Communicate Own Effect

Although some autistic individuals can communicate a range of emotions, others have hardly any or no communication of what they are feeling or have felt.

Ability to Link Speech to Non-Verbal Communication

At one end of the spectrum, individuals moderate their non-verbal gestures in line with their speech. At the other end of the spectrum there is some avoidance of eye contact, or in extreme cases, individuals are unable to speak or make minimal or no use of gesture and facial expression.

Ability to Communicate Feelings and Emotions Using Words

While some individuals are able to communicate many emotions, the feelings they have felt ―others exhibit hardly any ability to communicate the feelings and emotions verbally and nonverbally.

Ability to Understand of The Emotions of Others and Show Empathy to Others

Although many individuals with autism can understand and label or respond to the emotions of others; some individuals have no or minimal ability to identify, communicate and understand the emotions of others.

Ability to Show Insight into Social Situations and Relationships

Some individuals with autism show no or limited insight into typical social relationships. At the other end of the autistic spectrum, some individuals show insight into the nature of many typical social relationships.

Ability to Show Responsibility for His or Her Own Actions

At one end of the autistic spectrum are individuals who are responsible for many of their own actions across a variety of contacts which include daily living, work school and money et cetera. At the other end of the ASD spectrum are individuals who have a restricted sense of responsibility for their actions as would the appropriate to their level of development and age.

Quality of Attempts to Initiate Social Interaction

At one end of the ASD spectrum are individuals who use verbal and non-verbal methods to communicate social overtures appropriately. At the other end of the ASD spectrum are individuals who cannot engage in social overtures of any kind.

Frequency of Attempts to Get an Maintain Attention of Others

Although some individuals make frequent attempts to maintain the attention of others and direct their attention, others show an unusually frequent or excessive demand for attention.

Quality of Social Responses

While some individuals display a diversity of appropriate responses that change according to the immediate situation. However, others have minimal or inappropriate responses to the social context.

Frequency of Reciprocal Social Communication

Autistic individuals vary from those who make extensive use of verbal or non-verbal behaviours for social interchange to those that engage in little or no communication.

C. Imagination


Some individuals with autism show no creative or inventive actions. At the other end of the ASD spectrum are individuals who display numerous creative, spontaneous responses in activities and communication.

D. Stereotyped Behaviours and Restricted Interests

Unusual Sensory Interest in Play Material

Some individuals with ASD exhibit a pronounced unusual sensory interest while others show no unusual sensory interests or sensory seeking behaviours.

Hand to Finger and Other Complex Mechanisms

Some individuals with ASD display no hand to finger or other complex mechanisms such as repetitive clapping. At the other end of the spectrum, there are individuals who frequently exhibit such behaviours.


Some individuals with ASD engage in aggressive acts to harm themselves, these acts include headbanging, pulling out their own hair, biting themselves or slapping their own faces. Other individuals with ASD do not engage in this type of behaviour.

Disproportionate Interest or Reference to Specific Topics or Repetitive Behaviours [h3]

Some individuals with ASD display a marked preoccupation with interests or behaviours which interfere with their day-to-day activities. For example, a type of car. Other individuals with ASD display no excessive interests.

Rituals and Compulsions

Some individuals show obvious activities or verbal routines which must be discharged in full or in line with a sequence which is not part of a task. However, others may have one or several activities or routines which they have to complete in a specific way. They will become anxious if this activity is disrupted.

Other Abnormal Behaviours

Although some individuals can sit still appropriately, other individuals with ASD may have difficulty sitting still and may be overactive. Some individuals with autism, however, may be underactive.

Autism Meltdowns, Aggression and Disruption

Many people with autism display no destructive or aggressive behaviour. However, some people with ASD may talk loudly, they may have significant temper tantrums. Such tantrums frequently occur when there is a change of routine or change of environment.


Whilst many individuals with ASD show no marked signs of anxiety, others show significant anxiety in their day-to-day interaction.


Find Out More About Autism

Autism and The Law

People with ASD in the criminal justice system are affected as victims, witnesses and defendants. It is important that defendants with ASD are not unnecessarily criminalised because of their condition. The Youth Justice Centre (2018) recommend that it is important that both victims and defendants are supported to give best evidence at the police station and at court.

Because many people with autism are often quite vulnerable, there is a need for prosecutors to draw this to the attention of judges when sentencing perpetrators of crimes against victims with ASD.

Autism and Criminal Defence

Some individuals with autism may find it difficult to answer even the most straightforward questions asked by the police. Additionally, some young children with autism who self-harm may unwittingly be assumed to be victims of child abuse.

A person with autism might:
  • Be overwhelmed by police presence;
  • Fear a person in uniform;
  • React with fight or flight;
  • Not respond to “stop” or other commands; and
  • Not respond with his or her name or other verbal commands
  • May avoid eye contact.

Mogavero (2016) found that too many individuals with ASD are enter the criminal justice system due to inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Judges have discretion when sentencing, and it is important to point out that a custodial sentence may have a more devastating effect for an individual with autism than someone without the condition.



Autism and the Criminal Justice System

Autism and Disability Discrimination

Autism and Child Contact

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

Pathological Demand Avoidance in Adults

What is Pathological Demand Avoidance?

People with Pathological Demand Avoidance or PDA are driven to avoid demands due to their high anxiety levels when they feel that they are not in control.

PDA is increasingly recognised as being part of the autism spectrum. Some psychologists refer to it as a diagnostic profile or sub-type within autism. Individuals with PDA share difficulties with others on the autism spectrum in terms of social aspects of interaction and communication, together with some repetitive behaviour patterns. However, people with PDA often seem to have better social understanding than others on the spectrum

In individuals with PDA, their avoidance is clinically-significant in its extent and extreme nature. Children and adults with PDA can also mask their difficulties, and their behaviour can vary between settings.

PDA is a relatively new diagnosis it is frequently confused with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) as a diagnosis. PDA as shown in the diagram below from the PDA Society ( PDA falls within the circle of Autistic Spectrum Disorders, whereas ODD does not. There other conditions with frequently cooccur with autism in the green circle.

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

Figure 1: Pathological Demand Avoidance and its Interplay with Autism

Please note that Asperger Syndrome is now referred to as High Functioning Autism (HFA), although there is still some dispute that they are separate conditions.
There is overlap between most of these diagnoses. The term 'can't help won't' is often used to describe PDA.

PDA Not Yet Recognised in the DSM-5 and ICD-10

Many people are diagnosed with PDA as a condition in its own right. Presumably, this is because they do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum disorder ASD. The problem with this approach is that:

▪ PDA is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - fifth edition (DSM-5)
▪ PDA is not included in the International Classification of Diseases - 10th Edition (ICD-10)

Consequently, if the condition does not appear in the leading diagnostic manuals for psychological conditions some schools and educational institutions may find it difficult to provide support. Many argue that every individual with PDA is autistic.

PDA as a Form of Autism Spectrum Disorder

It is becoming more common for people to receive a diagnosis of ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) characterised by extreme demand avoidance.’ Alternatives ways of putting the diagnosis are:

  • ASD with a PDA profile;
  • ASD sub-type PDA; or
  • Atypical autism with demand avoidant tendencies.

Learn more about the key Characteristics of Pathological Demand Avoidance

6 Main Characteristics Pathological Demand Avoidance Are:

  1. Resisting and avoiding the ordinary demands of life;
  2. Using social strategies as part of the avoidance;
  3. Appearing sociable on the surface but lacking depth in their understanding;
  4. Excessive mood swings and impulsivity;
  5. Being comfortable in role play and pretence, sometimes to an extreme extent and often in a controlling fashion; and
  6. Obsessive’ behaviour that is often focused on other people, which can make relationships very tricky.
Direct demands tend to increase anxiety levels, which lead to overload in the individual. The deficient behaviour is a strategy for the individual to try to manage the anxiety caused by the demands. Many of these demands may be quite modest to individuals without PDA.

Individuals with PDA have Many Positive Characteristics

One should not lose sight of the fact that individuals with PDA can be quite positive and have many strengths. They can interact well socially and can be quite talkative. They are said to have charm and can be warm and affectionate. Their need to take control means that they are often seen as quite determined. They can have a rich imagination and are frequently described as creative and passionate.

8 Top Tips on Managing Children with PDA

8 Top Tips on How to Support Individuals with Pathological Demand Avoidance

Pathological Demand Avoidance Treatment

1. Flexibility

Always make sure that your day activities are flexible, the the individual with PDA child might not want to do them in a particular order they might want to do it in a completely different order. Allow that flexibility and you will find that the individual with PDA will be able to cope with the anxieties of the day a lot easier.

2. Control.

People with PDA need to feel so they are in control like autism, and other ASDs anxiety rules the day for them if they do not feel in control of a situation the sense of anxiety rises and then they feel panicky and fearsome of what is going to happen; particularly when it comes to change for PDA individual the fear of not being in control generates a resistance to what if the change or a request you might want them to do something they might not be able to do or not want to do it because they might get it wrong.

3. Ease Anxiety.

If changes needed, then talk the PDA individual through it you might want to talk to them you might want to write it down in steps like bullet points or you could use images or pictures either way show the PDA individual that there is a beginning a middle and the end of a request or activity you want them to carry out; this will ease the anxiety for the individual

4. Unravel the Fear

PDA individuals often see the worst in every situation they will always think of the worst thing that could possibly happen; reassure the PDA individual that there is nothing to worry about - do not be confrontational.

5. Building up Self Confidence

A lot of PDA individuals have a problem with self-esteem and confidence they think that if they do whatever it is they are being asked to do they are not going to do it properly; it might be that they feel they will be laughed at. They might feel embarrassed. There is a huge amount of anxiety that is behind these inner fears the best thing to do is boost up PDA individual’s confidence tell them exactly what they get right, tell them what they are good at.

6. Make the change outcome beneficial

Help the person with PDA see that the change out is beneficial to them, and not to you. The key here is to make them feel that they are making the decision themselves, make them think that actually the decision is their decision. Always make the outcome look beneficial to them and not to you.

7. Provide a Responsibility

We know that people with PDA love to be in control of their own world given the responsibility to do something to help themselves this will make them feel as though they are completely in control of their being and their body and, therefore, the outcome. The secret to it is careful wording in the request do not bark an order at them but suggest a way of doing something and add the element of responsibility into that request so they feel as though they are doing something for themselves.

8. Set boundaries

People with PDA need to know there will be a beginning a middle and an end. Help them to think what it will be like to achieve the end result. Provide them with a sense of responsibility.

Learn More About Pathological Avoidance Syndrome

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