Pervasive Developmental Disorders
Autism Spectrum Disorder

Guide to learning about pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), such as characteristics for autism and asperger syndrome behavior. Developmental disorders are becoming a growing concern in today’s society. Statistics are showing that Autistic Disorder is now occuring in one out of 110 children, which has increased dramatically from 5 cases out of every 10,000 in the 60's and 70's.

The following are all neurological disorders in children that are typically evident by age three and have the following symptoms in common: Impairments in imaginative play, verbal/ nonverbal communication abilities, and social skills. The five categories for PDD are:

1. PDD, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
2. Autism
3. Asperger's Syndrome
4. Rett Syndrome
5. Childhood disintegrative disorder

Characteristics of Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Individuals diagnosed also typically have a limited number of interests and engage in repetitive behavior. Symptoms of mild autism may be very similar to the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome. More specific characteristics of PDD - NOS include:

• Problems with verbal communication, including delays in expressive and receptive language.
• Problems with nonverbal communication, including facial expressions and gestures.
• Difficulty developing conversation skills or learning proper social etiquette (eg. Please, Thank you and I’m sorry).
• Self-stimulatory or repetitive behaviors, such as hand flapping, toe walking, and repetitive sounds.
• Limited eye contact.
• Self-injurious behavior, Aggression, and/or Temper Tantrums past the typical terrible-two stage.
• Sleep disturbance, anxiety, and fearfulness.

Skills, intelligence and abilities differ greatly between individuals diagnosed with PDD. Depending on the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria, specific symptoms for each child are classified into one of the five categories for PDD.

The category for PDD-NOS generally refers to the children that may have considerable delays in communication and play, but are too social to be diagnosed with Autistic disorder.


Treatment options for autism and pervasive disorders typically involve behavioral interventions including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) -currently the most effective scientifically evidence-based approach. Other treatment options may include a special autism diet, such as a gluten free diet, speech therapy, and/or occupational therapy.

You may also click on the following link to check out some tips to help your child adjust to a healthier diet and aid them in a reduction of undesirable behaviors that are often associated with autism when trying to change diets.

Schools will usually place a child in a classroom with other children having similar diagnoses. Sometimes they may place a child in a regular classroom, if the child is better able to succeed. A great site dedicated to understanding special education provides parents with a guide to understanding the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process, special education law, and tips for improving school success.

Return to Autism Symptoms page

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1.Tsai, Luke Y. (Updated 2003). Disability Info: Pervasive Developmental Disorders. National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY).

2. Pervasive Developmental Disorders. (2009). WebMD. 11-21-09.

3. Simpson, R. L. 1999. "Early Intervention with Children with Autism: The Search for Best Practices." Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps 24(3):218-221.

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