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The diagnostic category pervasive developmental disorders (PDD),
as opposed to specific developmental disorders (SDD), refers to a
group of disorders characterized by delays in the development of
multiple basic functions including socialization and communication.
The most commonly known PDD is autism. 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.
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
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.
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.
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 toddler hood. The unspoken
assumption is that by the age of 5, unusual behaviors will either resolve or develop into diagno-
sable 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.
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
Pervasive developmental disorders / Autistic spectrum
Childhood Bipolar Disorder
Systems and Prevalence
Causes and Related Disorders
References and External Links
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December 10, 2014