Pervasive Developmental Disorder

What is Pervasive Developmental Disorder

What was once thought to be a more rare condition is fast growing in diagnosis across the country. Specifically, pervasive development disorders are part and parcel of the autism spectrum, and are influencing the way we teach children and diagnose them sooner rather than later. Such disorders include Asperger’s, autism/autism pervasive developmental disorder, Rett’s disorder which commonly affects girls in the very early stages of development and is evident prior to birth, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, or for the ongoing purpose of discussion, abbreviated to PDD-NOS, and child disintegrative disorder.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders are any type of developmental inhibiting disorders which disallow a child to grow and function normally like other children their own chronological age. It is on point here, that chronological is used, as every child develops differently at their own pace, but children with developmental disorders are significantly behind their peers of the same chronological age rather than emotional, mental, physical or intellectual age. Every one of the previously mentioned disorders will, usually by age two, but sooner if more severe, make itself known to the parents and pediatrician who care for the child. In all of these cases social and emotional development are behind, and the child or children diagnosed as such cannot make age appropriate social contact with their parents or even other children. The world around them is too much to handle and they are isolated islands unto themselves.

Rett’s Syndrome

Much more recent education about Autism and Asperger’s has led to a national and international position to study pervasive childhood developmental disorders. For example, Rett’s syndrome, which affects exclusively little girls, has recently been found through genetic study to have a basis in cell mutation, and therefore infant and toddler girls who have this disorder can now be diagnosed much sooner through genetic testing and receive much needed assistance and support faster than they would have without this discovery. Rett’s appears very autistic like in nature at the early onset in that child development seems fairly normal until the child reaches her first or second birthday and the physical, intellectual, verbal and mental deterioration begins. Rett’s is still in contention in the medical field however, with whether or not it can be included in the autism spectrum.

Autism and Asperger

Autism and Asperger’s is still being studied and some believe there is also a possibility of genetic abnormality that occurs in early development. However, fact findings have not yet proved this and the theories of what causes these two similar disorders has not been wheedled down enough to say for sure what causes them. Autism, autism spectrum disorders and types of autism are all important parts of autism education during autism awareness month, which is April of every year since the 1970’s when the first cases of autism were noted in published medical journals. Just think of it; if everyone in the entire world donated a dollar to the research for understanding autism symptoms, signs of autism, causes of autism and treatments for autism, all of the children affected by it could have a cure or a significant progression in their treatment of their disorder. Wouldn’t that be something?

Child Disintegrative Disorder

A more disturbing disorder than any above is child disintegrative disorder. A child develops normally, as is the case with all the other pervasive developmental disorders, but suddenly begins to regress and lose all the abilities they had learned. Some children may even be able to vocalize what is happening to them, which is incredibly frightening for them and their families. In these instances, it is often the child describing hallucinations or other mental issues that would not ordinarily be associated with a toddler or pre-schooler. There are some causes that connect with its onset but nothing specific is thought to cause it directly and completely. Like all pervasive developmental disorders, there is no cure and the only treatments available are therapeutic, although some medications might also be prescribed to handle the psychotic elements and seizures involved with this disorder.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified PDD-NOS

Noticeable delays in development without a diagnosis of the previous four disorders results in a diagnosis of PDD-NOS. This is really a “lump the rest in here” category as most psychiatrists will note the delays but test results will not be able to completely ascertain, genetically or otherwise, what is a solid diagnosis for these children. That’s not to say they don’t meet the criteria for a pervasive disorder or autism/Asperger’s, it’s just a means to verify there are problems but nothing’s completely conclusive.

The total sum of education we have on these disorders is relatively new and all need further extensive research. Research requires money and more time and more money. Awareness brings the money that will, hopefully, bring the answers.


  1. My autistic little sister is 53, has suffered from her condition since she was a little girl. She now has dementia, has fallen and broken both hips, and day by day loses her ability to communicate and coordinate movement. She seems to me to have the potential to be a subject who can be studied and evaluated so that others might be benefited from her example. As a 12 year-old boy overhearing an adult conversation, I remember my mother and father discussing my sister’s condition. Their tears made me recognize their immense struggle. Little did I know that I would inherit their fight against the combined antagonism of autism and Alzheimer’s.

  2. it’s a shame tho. the Dr.’s don’t put more into their job to figure out if PDD-NOS isn’t conclusive enough, spend more time with these children to figure out what else may be going on. I have 6 children and 5 are diagnosed. It is absolutely draining to figure out what is going on. I took my now 22 yr. old to the pysch. and we were discussing my 11 yr. old behavior. She asked me if he was autistic because that is what it sounds like. I have been saying this for yrs. but the dr.’s just put PDD-NOS and they prescribe meds and see him every 3 months. I mean…how is that figuring out a better diagnosis? He may benefit from certain therapies, counseling, etc…. I am taking matters elsewhere now. to the psych. my daughter now sees. I really hope my kids can get a better treatment here.

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