Pervasive Development Disorder

The term "pervasive developmental disorders," also called PDDs, refers to a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills. Most notable among them are the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. Children with these conditions often are confused in their thinking and generally have problems understanding the world around them.

Symptoms

General symptoms that may be present to some degree in a child with a PDD include:

  • Difficulty with verbal communication, including problems using and understanding language and also difficulty with non-verbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions.
  • Difficulty with social interaction, including relating to people and to his or her surroundings.
  • Unusual ways of playing with toys and other objects.
  • Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine or familiar surroundings.
  • Repetitive body movements or patterns of behavior, such as hand flapping, spinning and, head banging.
  • Changing response to sound. (The child may be very sensitive to some noises and seem to not hear others.)
  • Temper tantrums
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Fearfulness or anxiety (nervousness)

Treatment

Because children with pervasive development disorders have a range of symptoms and abilities, a plan of therapy must be developed with the child's specific needs in mind. The treatment plan or more appropriately, a program of intervention will address the child's needs at home and at school. For that reason, intervention planning is a cooperative effort of the parents, health care providers, teachers, and others who may be needed to provide services, such as counselors, social workers and occupational, physical, or speech therapists. The plan aims to promote better socializing and communication, and reduce behaviors that can interfere with learning and functioning.
A plan of care for a child with a PDD may include:

  • Special education: Education is structured to meet the child's unique educational needs.
  • Behavior modification: This may include strategies for supporting positive behavior by the child.
  • Speech, physical or occupational therapy: These therapies are designed to increase the child's functional abilities.
  • Medication: There are no drugs to treat the PDDs themselves. Medications may be used, however, treating specific symptoms such as anxiety (nervousness), hyperactivity, and behavior may result in injury.