Pervasive Developmental DisordersLast updated Tuesday, April 05, 2011 |
Pervasive Developmental Disorders are a group of disorders that can be observed within the first few years of life. Considered to be disorders originating in childhood, this group of diagnoses is characterized by problems in social interactions, communication and other behavior and activities. Impairments in these areas are typically obvious when compared to children of similar age and development. Such problems create difficulties for the child across many areas of daily life and functioning. There are multiple and specific diagnoses in this category which include:
- Autistic Disorder
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
- Asperger’s Disorder
- Atypical Autism and other atypical developmental disorders
There is a wide range of symptoms that indicate the presence of PDD. Each disorder will have a particular group of specific symptoms that have to be present in order for the child to be diagnosed. Some symptoms of PDD are listed below.
- impaired social interactions
- problems making and keeping eye contact
- difficulty understanding social cues such as facial expressions and gestures
- lack of spontaneity lack of interest in age appropriate activities
- delays in language development
- poor ability to have conversation
- poor interest in age-appropriate play
- frequently repeated words or use of odd language
- repetitive, seemingly meaningless activity
- difficulty accepting changes in routine
- self-help skills are underdeveloped for age
- poor motor skills
- does not make friends
- shows little curiosity
The above list is not comprehensive, but is meant to indicate the types of symptoms that are characteristic of developmental disorders. A physician will evaluate and diagnose the particular Pervasive Developmental Disorder that is present and can discuss in detail the characteristics and symptoms of that specific disorder.
Other Conditions that Frequently Occur with Pervasive Developmental Disorders
Pervasive Developmental Disorders are frequently seen in children who also have some degree of intellectual impairment although such deficits are not always present in children with these disorders. Pervasive Developmental Disorders also occur along with other medical conditions such as structural problems of the nervous system, congenital conditions such as infections and chromosomal abnormalities (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Additionally, children with these disorders are prone to anxiety disorders such as Social Anxiety Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some children with developmental disorders will have co-occurring Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well. Depression is common. Learning disorders and ADHD are often diagnosed in these children (NYU Child Study Center, 2009) and communication problems and delays in language are typical.
Associated Problems for the Child and Family
A child with PDD will typically have problems in multiple areas of functioning. These include relationships and interactions with adults, peers and family members. Daily family life, self-care, school and social activities are impacted. Families will often find that daily life requires giving the child assistance in grooming, hygiene and the completion of other age-appropriate tasks. Additionally, the child with PDD is likely to have a limited ability to communicate needs and wants. Consequently, parents, caregivers and siblings will have to learn ways to communicate with and assist the child in multiple ways daily. Care for children with PDD can be labor intensive and subsequently families may find the need for occasional respite from care. Further, family events and special occasions may be upsetting to the child with PDD as normal daily routines are interrupted. Children will have to be prepared for such events and supported throughout them. Emotional support is also needed for the child to adapt to other changes in routine, to engage in family activities and to socialize. A child with PDD often experiences anxiety related to ‘normal’ daily events and may suffer from feelings of low self-esteem, frustration, helplessness and fear.
Treatment for children with PDD can be as varied as their symptoms and difficulties. Some treatment approaches are briefly outlined here, however each child will have unique and specific needs requiring an individualized treatment plan. There are many more treatment options available that a physician will be able to recommend and discuss in much greater detail. Biomedical treatments can target nutrition, immunity problems, detoxification procedures, the use of supplements, and gastrointestinal treatment to name a few. Behavioral interventions can be used in a variety of way. Behavioral interventions help children with PDD learn appropriate self-care and social behaviors including academic, communication and overall skills needed in daily life. Behavioral interventions also help eliminate problematic behaviors.
Occupational therapy can assist children with PDD better integrate and use sensory information, problem-solve, develop motor skills, learn self-care and participate in age-appropriate play as well as develop age-appropriate interests and activities. Speech and language therapy can help children with PDD develop more appropriate skills and communicate more effectively. Counseling can assist children and their family members by providing support and teaching emotional skills for coping with the demands of PDD. Education that is designed to inform family members about the nature of PDD and ways to manage and cope with symptoms and behaviors is a significant part of all treatment programs. Support groups for family members and caregivers that involve others also coping with PDD are also beneficial.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
NYU Child Study Center. (2009). Autistic Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder (Pervasive Developmental Disorders): Co-occurring Disorders. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from NYU Child Study Center: More info