Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) is a complex developmental condition that delays in how a child typically develops, issues with mingling with others and communicating, having trouble when a schedule changes, and repetitive behaviors and movements.
But now, doctors do not use the term pervasive developmental disorder anymore. PDDs are now called autism spectrum disorder.
This name change came by in 2013 when the American Psychiatric Association renamed autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) as autism spectrum disorders.
In 2020, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in America is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2016 data. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders
The three types of autism spectrum disorders are as follows:
People who are autistic usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests. Many people who have autism also have intellectual disabilities.
- Asperger’s Disorder
People with Asperger’s disorder usually have milder symptoms of autism. They might have social challenges and unusual behaviors and interests. However, they typically do not have problems with language or intellectual disability.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
This is sometimes called “atypical autism,” or PDD-NOS. People who meet some of the criteria for autism or Asperger’s disorder, but not all, maybe diagnosed with atypical autism. These people usually have fewer and milder symptoms than those with autism. The symptoms might cause only social and communication challenges.
- Rett’s Syndrome
Rett’s syndrome is a rare and severe neurological disorder, usually discovered in the first two years of life, and a child diagnosed with Rett’s syndrome can feel overwhelmed.
Rett’s syndrome used to be among autism spectrum disorders. But now that it is known to be caused by a genetic mutation, it is no longer among the ASDs.
Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder has no single known cause. Given the complexity of the disorder and the fact that symptoms and severity vary, there are probably many causes. Both genetics and the environment may play a significant role.
- Genetics: Several different genes appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For some children, autism spectrum disorder can be associated with a genetic disorder, such as Rett’s syndrome or fragile X syndrome. For other children, genetic changes or mutations may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder.
Still, other genes may affect brain development or the way that brain cells communicate, or they may determine the severity of symptoms. Some genetic mutations seem to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously.
- Environmental Factors: Researchers are currently exploring whether factors such as viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder.
Symptoms of Autistic Spectrum Disorder
- Social Communication And Interaction
A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have issues with socializing and communication skills, including any of these signs:
- Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times
- Resists cuddling and holding, and seems to prefer playing alone, retreating into his or her own world
- Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expression
- Does not speak or has delayed speech, or loses previous ability to say words or sentences
- Cannot start a conversation or keep one going, or only starts one to make requests or label items
- Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm and may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
- Repeats words or phrases verbatim, but does not understand how to use them
- Does not appear to understand simple questions or directions
- Does not express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others’ feelings
- Does not point at or bring objects to share an interest
- Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive
- Has difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues, such as interpreting other people’s facial expressions, body postures, or tone of voice.
- Patterns Of Behavior
A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have limited, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, including any of these symptoms:
- Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping
- Performs activities that could cause self-harm, such as biting or head-banging
- Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
- Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on toes, and has odd, stiff or exaggerated body language
- Is fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn’t understand the overall purpose or function of the object
- Is unusually sensitive to light, sound or touch, yet may be indifferent to pain or temperature
- Does not engage in imitative or make-believe play
- Fixates on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus
- Has specific food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or refusing foods with a certain texture.
Treatment For Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Behavior And Communication Therapies: Many programs address the range of social, language, and behavioral difficulties associated with an autism spectrum disorder. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Other programs focus on teaching children how to act in social situations or communicate better with others. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) can help children learn new skills and generalize these skills in multiple situations through a reward-based motivation system.
- Educational Therapy: Children with autism spectrum disorder often respond well to highly structured educational programs. Successful programs typically include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication, and behavior. Preschool children who receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions often show good progress.
- Family Therapy: Parents and other family members can learn how to play and interact with their children in ways that promote social interaction skills, manage problem behaviors, and teach daily living skills and communication.
- Medications: No medication can improve the core signs of autism spectrum disorder, but specific medications can help control symptoms. For example, certain medications may be prescribed if your child is hyperactive; antipsychotic drugs are sometimes used to treat severe behavioral problems; and antidepressants may be prescribed for anxiety. Keep all health care providers updated on any medications or supplements your child is taking.
Generally, children dealing with autism spectrum disorder continue to learn and compensate for problems throughout their lives, but most of them will continue to need some level of support.
Planning for your child’s future, such as employment, college, lifestyle, independence and the services required for support can make this process even smoother for you!
Tags: Causes of pervasive developmental disorder, Pervasive developmental disorder in adults, Autistic disorder