What is PDD?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

PDD stands for pervasive development (or developmental) disorder, and it is occasionally a diagnosis, when it is called PDD-NOS, or it is a general term to describe several different developmental conditions. These include autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD). PDD is also sometimes called PDD-NOS, which means pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, and this is an actual diagnosis when a child has symptoms similar to autism, but may not be autistic.

Many children and adolescents who have Asperger's syndrome are highly intelligent.
Many children and adolescents who have Asperger's syndrome are highly intelligent.

There are many symptoms that may be associated with PDD, and these can be present in greater or lesser amounts. They usually begin to emerge when children are about three but they may take a while to fully occur and a few years to completely identify. Sometimes symptoms are relatively mild and are missed by parents. Some of the key things to look for include:

Occupational therapy is often used to help children on the autism spectrum to improve their ability to move their bodies so they can use scissors, ride tricycles and catch balls.
Occupational therapy is often used to help children on the autism spectrum to improve their ability to move their bodies so they can use scissors, ride tricycles and catch balls.
  • Failure to make eye contact
  • Speech delays or complete lack of understanding or use of language
  • Repetitive movements
  • No interest in playing with or interacting with others
  • Loss of or delays in developmental milestones
  • No interest in environment
A child who experiences delays in developmental milestones, such as walking, may be suffering from PDD.
A child who experiences delays in developmental milestones, such as walking, may be suffering from PDD.

When these behaviors are constant they suggest PDD, and parents ought to have a child analyzed for it. Most of the conditions that fall under this heading, especially autism and Asperger, benefit from early intervention. Depending upon the degree of these conditions, a child may suffer from minor to major impairment, but early intervention has been shown to potentially increase function and ability to pursue normal living. Some of these conditions like Rett and CDD may not be as easily treated, but understanding the cause of a child’s behavior and other symptoms may make care much easier and give greater comfort to the child.

Individuals suffering from PDD may engage in self-harming behavior.
Individuals suffering from PDD may engage in self-harming behavior.

How PDD is treated and how functional a child with it will be, really depends upon severity of underlying causes and ability to apply successful interventions. These could include medications to stop self-harming behavior, speech/language therapy, behavior modification programs and others. Each child really needs a program that is designed for him or her.

Some people -- including those with autism or PDD -- have auditory processing disorders that can affect how they perceive sounds.
Some people -- including those with autism or PDD -- have auditory processing disorders that can affect how they perceive sounds.

Depending upon degree to which a child is affected by PDD, he or she may need specialized schooling, or might be able to participate in mainstream schooling with some support. Some children with this condition are highly functional, and are able to work past their difficulties and obtain college educations. This is very variable and not always predictable.

About one in 190 girls is diagnosed with autism, which is a far lower rate than for boys.
About one in 190 girls is diagnosed with autism, which is a far lower rate than for boys.

Parents of kids with pervasive developmental disorder may feel the condition was their fault. Research still doesn’t point to any one cause, but it is not the fault of parenting. There are many parents who believe that vaccinating children puts them at more risk for these developmental disorders. The medical community disputes this, and most children are considered at far greater risk from developing diseases against which they would ordinarily be vaccinated, when parents choose not to vaccinate.

Some children with PDD are able to work past their difficulties and lead normal lives.
Some children with PDD are able to work past their difficulties and lead normal lives.
Some young children who suffer from a pervasive development disorder may not master fine motor skills as quickly as their peers.
Some young children who suffer from a pervasive development disorder may not master fine motor skills as quickly as their peers.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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