Four years ago, I was leading a team of researchers at a large non-profit in Washington D.C.

 

But then my world fell apart...

My son had started having violent meltdowns that seemed to exponentially escalate no matter what I did to help him. Increasingly, he stopped eating, walking, and speaking. When he wasn’t hidden inside of himself, he would explode, and eventually I became scared of my own child. When I caught his gaze, I would see fear in his eyes too. I had no idea what to do.

Deep down I had always known something about my child was not typical.

As a baby, I could never soothe him and no matter what parenting book I scoured, none of it applied to my son. When I asked pediatricians questions, they told me my son was verbal, socially engaged, and pretty good at eye contact, and not to worry.

So I blamed myself.

I told myself I simply wasn’t a good mom and tried to push through. Until one day I couldn't anymore.

I left my career and we moved our family to a small town in Michigan. After a year as a full-time caregiver, mother, and researcher of my child, I came across Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).

Suddenly, everything became clear and set me on a journey that has transformed my life and my views and assumptions about human behavior.

By changing how I understand, parent, and accommodate my son, I found a deep connection with him and a sense of competence and peace in my identity as a parent.

Now that my family is at peace and stable, I am committing my energy and time to getting your family or practice there too.

What I Will Do

  • Help you feel confident and at peace as a parent or practitioner supporting a PDA child or children.
  • See your children as whole humans who will thrive with the right support.
  • Offer trauma-informed approaches and creative accommodations for anxiety and meltdowns.
  • Support you to lead your family out of any darkness, while naming that you can't do it alone.

What I Won't Do

  • Shame, blame or judge you based on your challenges with your child or children.
  • View your child or children as a disorder, a diagnosis, or people who need to be “fixed.”
  • Suggest you use sticker charts, time-outs, or ABA therapy.
  • Give up on you or allow you to give up on yourself.

Qualifications

Casey Ehrlich, Ph.D. (she/her) is a social scientist, parent coach and educator, the CEO and founder of At Peace Parents, and a leader of the first peer-reviewed studies of PDA in the United States.  Casey brings 15 years of work experience and expertise in social science methodology to help parents and therapists understand how to connect with and accommodate PDA Autistic children. She specializes in teaching parents and therapists practical skills in the home or clinical setting to accommodate neuroception-driven demand avoidance and nervous system differences through creative techniques. Her original research as a social scientist was conducted on post-conflict reconciliation, social capital, trust, and trauma in Colombia, South America - themes she brings to her work with parents, therapists, and teachers. She has served more than 1,000 families raising Autistic, PDA Autistic, ADHD and traumatized children since 2020 and is also raising a PDA autistic son.

Degrees & Certifications

  • Level II Certification from the UK-based OCN-accredited organization, Positive Autism and Support (PAST).
  • Ph.D. in Political Science (University of Wisconsin - Madison)
  • Master's of Political And Economic Development (Columbia University - NY)

Presentations:

  • The Learn Play Thrive 2024 Continuing Education Summit. Navigating Demand Avoidance: Threat, Safety, and Foot on the Gas - with Mel Houser, M.D. 2024
  • Association for Autism and Neurodiversity (AANE) "Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance" 2023 
  • “Identifying and Supporting PDA Autism in the Classroom”
    • San Mateo (CA) School District, 2023
    • Sudbury Democratic School of Miami, 2022
  • "Threat, Safety, and Foot on the Gas" - with Dr. Mel Houser, M.D.
    • Brain Club at All Brains Belong, 2022
    • Vermont Association of Occupational Therapists, 2022
    • Vermont Family Network, 2022. 
  • Yahoo Global - Parents and Caregivers Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group, 2022
  • The ADHD Summit: What Caregivers and Professionals Need to Know, 2022

Podcasts 

Interviews

Fellowships, Grants & Awards 

  • United States Institute of Peace 
  • National Science Foundation
  • Fulbright Scholarship
  • Social Science Research Council
  • Consistent Excellence Award, research integrity, Pew Charitable Trusts 
  • Guggenheim Peace Fellow

Publications & Original Research