Pervasive Developmental Disorder

This is also known as ’pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified’ (PDD-NOS): it used to describe people with some but not all of the symptoms of autism and/or Asperger’s Syndrome.

Children with PDD-NOS often have the signs of autism but not the higher than normal level of intelligence as seen in Asperger’s children. Plus they do not the good verbal skills associated with this disorder.

Pervasive developmental disorder is an autistic spectrum disorder but there is some confusion surrounding this. Many experts see it as an umbrella term for a range of spectrum disorders whereas others view it as a single condition –known as ’atypical autism’.

PDD is often used to refer to a group of disorders which include Asperger’s Syndrome, autism and Rett’s Syndrome.

Where does PDD appear on the autism spectrum? It is milder than classic autism but more severe than Asperger’s Syndrome.

Children with a pervasive development disorder

The most noticeable aspect of this is a problem with social and communication skills such as talking to others, socialisation and using one’s imagination. Children affected by this disorder are confused by the world around them and find it difficult to interpret and understand. They are not considered ’autistic’ in the sense that they are able to engage in some form of social activity: whereas many autistic children avoid social interaction.

But they still have some problems such as relating to other people, taking an interest in that person and empathising with them. They find it difficult to cope with body language and gesture and put a literal interpretation on everything said during a conversation.

This means that they are unable to deal with irony, humour and sarcasm. Slang or colloquialisms are another area of difficulty.

Their language skills tend to be limited with the use of repetition, confused or poor choice of words and an intense focus on a particular subject. Much of this is uttered in a monotone as the child has not learnt how to use emotion in their speech to emphasise a particular point.

Plus they will not have learnt about ’taking turns’during a conversation or asking another child/adult about their interests. Many children with this disorder are obsessive about a particular subject to the exclusion of anything else. They will talk about it for hours and often repeat themselves when they do.

Other symptoms include rigid adherence to a routine, socially challenging behaviour, problems with sleeping and anxiety. They also have a tendency towards repetitive actions such as banging their head against a wall.

Treating pervasive developmental disorder

A multi-disciplinary approach is needed to this disorder. There are no drugs to cure this condition but there are behavioural interventions which can help.

These include:

  • Medication for various symptoms such as anxiety
  • Speech therapy
  • Behavioural analysis
  • Special needs education

These all have techniques which the child can learn in order to successfully participate in society. This means learning social skills such as initiating a conversation, learning to share and using appropriate language.

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