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What is PDD?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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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.

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:

  • 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

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.

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.

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.

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.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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