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Last Updated: 11/20/2017
 

 Disability Information - Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

 

General Information

Education & Classroom Accommodations

Michigan Resources, Support Groups, Listservs & Websites

National Resources & Websites

Articles Related to this Disability

Medical Information

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 General Information

Definition of the PDD Category and its Five Specific Disorders
All types of PDD are neurological disorders that are usually evident by age 3. In general, children who have a type of PDD have difficulty in talking, playing with other children, and relating to others, including their family.

According to the definition set forth in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), Pervasive Developmental Disorders are characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development:

social interaction skills;
communication skills; or
the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities.
 

Information on the Five Specific Disorders in the PDD Category

For more information on Autism, click here.

For more information on Asperger's Syndrome, click here.

For more information on Rett's Syndrome, click here.

For more information on Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, click here.

For more information on PDD-NOS, see below.

 
The Five Types of PDD
(1) Autistic Disorder. Autistic Disorder, sometimes referred to as early infantile autism or childhood autism, is four times more common in boys than in girls. Children with Autistic Disorder have a moderate to severe range of communication, socialization, and behavior problems. Many children with autism also have mental retardation. The DSM-IV criteria by which Autistic Disorder is diagnosed are presented below.

Diagnostic Criteria for Autistic Disorder

A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):
(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(b) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(c) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
(d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

(2) qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)
(b) in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
(c) stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
(d) lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

(3) restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(b) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(c) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
(d) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.

C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett's Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. (APA, 1994, pp. 70-71)

(Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Copyright 1994 American Psychiatric Association.)

(2) Rett's Disorder. Rett's Disorder, also known as Rett Syndrome, is diagnosed primarily in females. In children with Rett's Disorder, development proceeds in an apparently normal fashion over the first 6 to 18 months at which point parents notice a change in their child's behavior and some regression or loss of abilities, especially in gross motor skills such as walking and moving. This is followed by an obvious loss in abilities such as speech, reasoning, and hand use. The repetition of certain meaningless gestures or movements is an important clue to diagnosing Rett's Disorder; these gestures typically consist of constant hand-wringing or hand-washing (Moeschler, Gibbs, & Graham 1990). The diagnostic criteria for Rett's Disorder as set forth in the DSM-IV appear below.

Diagnostic Criteria for Rett's Disorder

A. All of the following:

(1) apparently normal prenatal and perinatal development
(2) apparently normal psychomotor development through the first 5 months after birth
(3) normal head circumference at birth

B. Onset of all of the following after the period of normal development

(1) deceleration of head growth between ages 5 and 48 months
(2) loss of previously acquired purposeful hand skills between ages 5 and 30 months with the subsequent development of stereotyped hand movements (e.g., hand-wringing or hand washing)
(3) loss of social engagement early in the course (although often social interaction develops later)
(4) appearance of poorly coordinated gait or trunk movements
(5) severely impaired expressive and receptive language development with severe psychomotor retardation. (APA, 1994, pp. 72-73)

(Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Copyright 1994 American Psychiatric Association.)

(3) Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, an extremely rare disorder, is a clearly apparent regression in multiple areas of functioning (such as the ability to move, bladder and bowel control, and social and language skills) following a period of at least 2 years of apparently normal development. By definition, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder can only be diagnosed if the symptoms are preceded by at least 2 years of normal development and the onset of decline is prior to age 10 (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). DSM-IV criteria are presented below.

Diagnostic Criteria for Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

A. Apparently normal development for at least the first 2 years after birth as manifested by the presence of age-appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication, social relationships, play, and adaptive behavior.

B. Clinically significant loss of previously acquired skills (before age 10 years) in at least two of the following areas:

(1) expressive or receptive language
(2) social skills or adaptive behavior
(3) bowel or bladder control
(4) play
(5) motor skills

C. Abnormalities of functioning in at least two of the following areas:

(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction (e.g., impairment in nonverbal behaviors, failure to develop peer relationships, lack of social or emotional reciprocity)
(2) qualitative impairments in communication (e.g., delay or lack of spoken language, inability to initiate or sustain a conversation, stereotyped and repetitive use of language, lack of varied make-believe play)
(3) restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, including motor stereotypes and mannerisms

D. The disturbance is not better accounted for by another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or by Schizophrenia. (APA, 1994, pp. 74-75)

(Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Copyright 1994 American Psychiatric Association.)

(4) Asperger's Disorder. Asperger's Disorder, also referred to as Asperger's or Asperger's Syndrome, is a developmental disorder characterized by a lack of social skills; difficulty with social relationships; poor coordination and poor concentration; and a restricted range of interests, but normal intelligence and adequate language skills in the areas of vocabulary and grammar. Asperger's Disorder appears to have a somewhat later onset than Autistic Disorder, or at least is recognized later. An individual with Asperger's Disorder does not possess a significant delay in language development; however, he or she may have difficulty understanding the subtleties used in conversation, such as irony and humor. Also, while many individuals with autism have mental retardation, a person with Asperger's possesses an average to above average intelligence (Autism Society of America, 1995). Asperger's is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "high-functioning autism." The diagnostic criteria for Asperger's Disorder as set forth in the DSM-IV are presented below.

Diagnostic Criteria for Asperger's Disorder

A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(1) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(2) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(3) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
(4) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(2) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(3) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
(4) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single word used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).

E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or Schizophrenia. (APA, 1994, p. 77)

(Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Copyright 1994 American Psychiatric Association.)

(5) Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Children with PDDNOS either (a) do not fully meet the criteria of symptoms clinicians use to diagnose any of the four specific types of PDD above, and/or (b) do not have the degree of impairment described in any of the above four PDD specific types.

According to the DSM-IV, this category should be used "when there is a severe and pervasive impairment in the development of social interaction or verbal and nonverbal communication skills, or when stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities are present, but the criteria are not met for a specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizotypal Personality Disorder, or Avoidant Personality Disorder" (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, pp. 77-78).

The Confusion of Diagnostic Labels
The intent behind the DSM-IV is that the diagnostic criteria not be used as a checklist but, rather, as guidelines for diagnosing pervasive developmental disorders. There are no clearly established guidelines for measuring the severity of a person's symptoms. Therefore, the line between autism and PDDNOS is blurry (Boyle, 1995).

As discussed earlier, there is still some disagreement among professionals concerning the PDDNOS label. Some professionals consider "Autistic Disorder" appropriate only for those who show extreme symptoms in every one of several developmental areas related to autism. Other professionals are more comfortable with the term Autistic Disorder and use it to cover a broad range of symptoms connected with language and social dysfunction. Therefore, an individual may be diagnosed by one practitioner as having Autistic Disorder and by another practitioner as having PDDNOS (or PDD, if the practitioner is abbreviating for PDDNOS).

Generally, an individual is diagnosed as having PDDNOS if he or she has some behaviors that are seen in autism but does not meet the full DSM-IV criteria for having Autistic Disorder. Despite the DSM-IV concept of Autistic Disorder and PDDNOS being two distinct types of PDD, there is clinical evidence suggesting that Autistic Disorder and PDDNOS are on a continuum (i.e., an individual with Autistic Disorder can improve and be rediagnosed as having PDDNOS, or a young child can begin with PDDNOS, develop more autistic features, and be rediagnosed as having Autistic Disorder).

To add to the list of labels that parents, teachers, and others may encounter, a new classification system was recently developed by ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families (1994). Under this system, called the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood, the term Multisystem Developmental Disorder, or MSDD, is used to describe pervasive developmental disorders.

However, amidst all this confusion, it is very important to remember that, regardless of whether a child's diagnostic label is autism, PDDNOS, or MSDD, his or her treatment is similar.
 

For more information, visit http://www.nichcy.org/pubs/factshe/fs1txt.htm.

 

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 Education & Classroom Accommodations

Frequently Asked Questions About Autism, Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD), Behavior Issues, Sensory Issues, and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) - click here.

 

Special Education and PDDNOS
By law, schools must make special services available to eligible children with disabilities. These services are called special education and related services (discussed more below). The law that requires this is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Under the IDEA, school-aged children who are thought to have a disability must be evaluated by the public schools at no cost to parents. Based on the evaluation, a determination is made as to their eligibility for services.

IDEA defines categories of disability under which a child is considered eligible for services. These categories are: autism, deaf-blindness, hearing impairments including deafness, mental retardation, other health impairments, orthopedic impairments, serious emotional disturbance, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, traumatic brain injury, visual impairments including blindness, or multiple disabilities. If permitted by the state and the local educational agency, a school may also provide services to a student, from age 3 through age 9, under the separate category of "developmental delay." Parents should check with their state department of special education to find out what guidelines their state uses.

It's important to realize that a child may have a disability and still not be eligible for special education and related services. For a child to be determined to be eligible, the child's disability must adversely affect his or her educational performance.

Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet a child's unique educational needs. Related services can include a range of services that are provided to help the student benefit from his or her special education. Related services include (but are not limited to) such services as occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical therapy. Both special education and related services must be provided at no cost to the parents; both can be extremely beneficial for children with PDDNOS.

Services to very young children are also covered under the IDEA. Through the Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, states make early intervention services available to eligible infants and toddlers (birth through two years). Not all services are free; some may be provided on a sliding-scale basis (in other words, according to the parents' ability to pay).

Early intervention services are designed to meet the developmental needs of the infant or toddler in areas such as their physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development. Services include (but are not limited to) such services as: family training and home visits, special instruction, speech-language pathology, vision services, and occupational therapy. To the maximum extent appropriate, early intervention services are to be provided in natural environments, including the home and community settings in which children without disabilities participate.

The IFSP and the IEP
The majority of school-aged children with PDDNOS will need some special education services, just as those who are younger will need early intervention services. If a school-aged child is found eligible for services, the parents and the school will develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a document that lists, among other things, the child's strengths and weaknesses, and what special education and related services the school will provide to address those needs. If the child is less than 3 years old, he or she will have an Individualized Family Service Plan, (IFSP). Parents can contact their state parent training and information center (PTI) or NICHCY for helpful information about IEP or IFSP development and the special education process. 

 

For more information, visit http://www.nichcy.org/pubs/factshe/fs1txt.htm.

 

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 Michigan Resources, Support Groups, Listservs & Websites

Click here for information on Social Skills Builders Classes - Social Skills Builders offers a series of peer group programs for early childhood through adolescent aged children, who demonstrate difficulties with social skill awareness, social interactions and social behaviors.

 

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 National Resources & Websites

Autism Hotline
Autism Services Center
P.O. Box 507
Huntington, WV 25710-0507
(304) 525-8014
Web: www.autismservices.com

Autism Society of America
7910 Woodmont Avenue
Suite 650
Bethesda, MD 20814
Telephone: (301) 657-0881; (800) 3-AUTISM.
Web: www.autism-society.org

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
Telephone: 1-800-695-0285; (202) 884-8200 (V/TTY)
E-mail: nichcy@aed.org
Web: www.nichcy.org

 

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 Articles Related to this Disability

 

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 Medical Information

Both behavioral and biological studies have generated sufficient evidence to suggest that PDDNOS is caused by a neurological abnormality--problems with the nervous system. However, no specific cause or causes have been identified.

While studies have found various nervous-system problems, no single problem has been consistently found, and exact causes are far from clear. This may be due to the current approach of defining PDDNOS based on behaviors (as opposed to, say, genetic testing). Hence, it is possible that PDDNOS is the result of several different conditions. If this is the case, it is anticipated that future studies will identify a range of causes.

 

For more information on PDD-NOS, visit http://www.asaoakland.org/dsm_pdd_nos.htm.

 

Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental Disorders) - Describes symptoms, causes, and treatments, with information on getting help and coping.

 
NINDS Pervasive Developmental Disorders Information Page - Includes: What are Pervasive Developmental Disorders? Is there any treatment? What is the prognosis? What research is being done? Organizations, Related NINDS Publications and Information, and Publicaciones en Español.

 

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 Books & Videos

 

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 Personal Home Pages & Websites

 

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