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Unraveling Pervasive Developmental Disorders

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Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are conditions that impact social interaction, communication, and behavior. These disorders affect the way people interact with others, communicate effectively, and behave appropriately. These disorders typically manifest early in childhood and have a profound impact on an individual’s daily life. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

Symptoms of Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Symptoms of Pervasive Developmental Disorders differ among individuals, but usually fit into these categories.

a. Impaired Social Interaction: People with PDD often struggle with understanding and responding to social cues. They may have difficulty maintaining eye contact, understanding gestures, or showing empathy.

b. People with PDD may have problems with talking, like being slow to learn speech or struggling to start or keep conversations. They might also repeat what others say.

c. Restricted and repetitive behaviors include repeating actions, intense interests, resistance to routine changes, and sensitivity to sensory stimuli.

Causes of Pervasive Developmental Disorders

We don’t know why Pervasive Developmental Disorders happen, but genes, environment, and brain factors may play a role. Some potential contributors to the development of PDD include:

a. Genetic Factors: Studies have shown that PDD tends to run in families, indicating a genetic component. Certain gene mutations and variations may increase the risk of developing these disorders.

b. Certain environmental factors, like toxins during pregnancy or birth complications, can increase the chances of PDD.

c. Brain imaging has found brain abnormalities in individuals with PDD, indicating involvement of neurological factors.

Diagnosis and Treatment

a. Diagnosis

Diagnosing developmental disorders is complex and needs a thorough evaluation by a team of specialists, like doctors, psychologists, and speech therapists. The diagnostic process typically involves the following steps:

i. Healthcare providers do regular screenings to find signs of developmental delays, including those linked to PDD.

ii. We conduct a full evaluation. This evaluation includes observing the child, speaking with parents or caregivers, and administering tests. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the child’s social communication, language skills, and behavior.

iii. DSM-5 Criteria: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides specific criteria for diagnosing Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

b. Treatment

While there is no cure for PDD, early intervention and appropriate treatment can significantly improve an individual’s quality of life. We tailor the treatment plan to meet the specific needs of the individual and it may include the following:

i. Behavioral Therapies: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and other behavioral therapies can help individuals learn new skills and reduce problem behaviors.

ii. Speech and Language Therapy: Speech therapy aims to improve communication skills and language development in individuals with PDD.

iii. Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy helps individuals develop skills to cope with daily activities and sensory sensitivities.

iv. Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms, such as anxiety or hyperactivity.

v. Parent and Caregiver Education: Educating parents and caregivers about PDD and effective strategies can enhance the child’s progress and create a supportive environment.



Pervasive Developmental Disorders, or Autism Spectrum Disorders, present a complex set of challenges for affected individuals and their families. Early detection, proper evaluation, and tailored interventions can make a significant change in the lives of those with PDD, helping them lead fulfilling lives and reach their full potential. Research into the causes and treatments of PDD continues, and with ongoing support and awareness, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and understanding society for individuals with Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

What are the three pervasive developmental disorders?

As mentioned earlier, the term “Pervasive Developmental Disorders” is now less commonly used, and the conditions are grouped under the umbrella term “Autism Spectrum Disorders” (ASD). The three main disorders within the ASD category are:

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – This encompasses the features of classic autism and other pervasive developmental disorders.

Asperger’s Syndrome (sometimes considered a subtype of ASD) – Individuals with Asperger’s typically have average or above-average intelligence and milder symptoms than classic autism.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) – A rare condition where a child experiences a significant loss of previously acquired skills, such as language and social abilities, after a period of normal development.

What is the difference between ASD and PDD?

ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) and PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorders) are often used interchangeably, but there are distinctions between the two terms. In the past, PDD was a broader diagnostic category that included several specific disorders, including autism. However, with the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the term PDD was replaced by ASD, which became the unifying term for all pervasive developmental disorders. Essentially, ASD is a more specific and up-to-date term that encompasses the various conditions that were previously classified under PDD.

What is the most common form of PDD?

Among the five pervasive developmental disorders previously categorized under PDD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the most common form. ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental condition characterized by a wide range of symptoms, including social communication challenges, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. Its prevalence has increased in recent years, and it is estimated to affect around 1 in 54 children in the United States, making it the most frequently diagnosed PDD/ASD condition.

Please note that diagnostic criteria and classifications may change over time, and it’s essential to refer to the most recent edition of diagnostic manuals for the latest information.