What is Pervasive Development Disorder?

What is Pervasive Development Disorder?

Pervasive development disorder, often called a developmental disorder or PDD, is another term for autism spectrum disorders. PDD includes autism, Asperger’s disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and PDD-NOS, or pervasive development disorder (not otherwise specified). Children with PDD often have difficulty with certain developmental processes, such as socialization, language, communication, and motor behavior.

Parenting behaviors do not cause pervasive development disorders, and the exact cause of PDD is not known. Much recent research has pointed at genetic and environmental factors as a cause. These developmental disorders are believed to be made up of a series of related disorders with multiple causes, which makes one specific cause difficult to pin down. PDD is more likely to happen in boys than in girls, with the exception of Rett syndrome, which occurs almost exclusively in girls.

Symptoms of pervasive development disorders include:

  • poor socialization and eye contact — these children often show a lack of interest in physical contact, avoid making eye contact with others, and have a hard time making friends and establishing relationships
  • poor communication — children with PDD sometimes do not develop language skills (they are non-verbal), or they have a tendency to repeat words and phrases (called echolalia) and have difficulty communicating with words and language
  • repetitive behaviors — children with PDD often engage in repetitive and self-stimulating behaviors such as rocking or flapping their fingers

Some children with pervasive development disorders will function normally up until about age 2, when the first signs might begin to show. The symptoms begin to show a loss of functioning. Pervasive development disorders can be extremely varied, so some children’s symptoms will be more severe than others.

While means to prevent PDD is currently unknown, research does suggest that early intervention and a therapeutic team of speech, occupational, and behavioral therapy is effective in treating the developmental disorder.

PDD is also often comorbid (presence of one or more disorders in addition to the primary disorder) with other disorders, including:

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Seizures and epilepsy
  • ADHD
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Visual problems

Since symptoms and treatments can vary amongst the spectrum of pervasive development disorders, research the exact diagnosis or symptoms if they are known. If you suspect your child might have a PDD, contact your doctor to set up an evaluation.

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