|Disorders usually first diagnosed in
infancy, childhood, or adolescence.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS--
The diagnostic category pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), as opposed to specific developmental disorders
(SDD), refers to a group of five disorders characterized by delays in the development of multiple basic functions
including socialization and communication. The most commonly known PDD is (1) Autism, with the remaining
identified as (2) Rett syndrome, (3) Childhood disintegrative disorder, (4) Asperger syndrome, and (5) Pervasive
Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (or PDD-NOS).
Parents may note symptoms of PDD as early as infancy and typically onset is prior to 3 years of age. PDD itself
generally does not affect life expectancy. However, PDDs are correlated with poverty, suicides, crimes, and a variety
of medical problems.
There is a division among doctors on the use of the term PDD. Many use the term PDD as a short way of saying
PDDNOS. Others use the general category label of PDD because they are hesitant to diagnose very young
children with a specific type of PDD, such as autism. Both approaches contribute to confusion about the term,
because the term PDD actually refers to a category of disorders and is not a diagnostic label.
PDD-NOS and terminology
PDD-NOS is often incorrectly referred to as simply “PDD.” The term PDD refers to the class of conditions to which
Autism belongs. PDD is not itself a diagnosis, while PDD-NOS is a diagnosis. To further complicate the issue, PDD-
NOS can also be referred to as “atypical personality development,” “atypical PDD,” or “atypical Autism”.
Symptoms of PDD may include communication problems such as:
* Difficulty using and understanding language
* Difficulty relating to people, objects, and events
* Unusual play with toys and other objects
* Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings
* Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns
Types and degrees
Autism, a developmental brain disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication skills, and
limited range of activities and interests, is the most characteristic and best studied PDD. Other types of PDD include
Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett syndrome, and PDD not otherwise specified (PDD-
Children with PDD vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some children do not speak
at all, others speak in limited phrases or conversations, and some have relatively normal language development.
Repetitive play skills and limited social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information
– loud noises, lights – are also common.
In early childhood
Some clinicians use PDD-NOS as a "temporary" diagnosis for children under the age of 5, when for whatever reason
there is a reluctance to diagnose autism. There are several justifications for this: very young children have limited
social interaction and communication skills to begin with, therefore it can be tricky to diagnose milder cases of
autism in toddlerhood. The unspoken assumption is that by the age of 5, unusual behaviors will either resolve or
develop into diagnosable autism. However, some parents view the PDD label as no more than a euphemism for
autistic spectrum disorders, problematic because this label makes it more difficult to receive aid for early intervention.
Cure and care
There is no known cure for PDD. Medications are used to address certain behavioral problems; therapy for children
with PDD should be specialized according to the child's specific needs.
Some children with PDD benefit from specialized classrooms in which the class size is small and instruction is given
on a one-to-one basis. Others function well in standard special education classes or regular classes with support.
Early intervention including appropriate and specialized educational programs and support services plays a critical
role in improving the outcome of individuals with PDD.
1. ^ National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) (October 2003) Disability Info: Pervasive Developmental
Disorders (FS20). Fact Sheet 20 (FS20)
* The ADHD-Autism Connection: A Step toward more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. By Diane M. Kennedy. ISBN 1-57856-
498-0 – The aim of this book is to explore the similarities that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) shares with pervasive