Pervasive Developmental Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis

What is Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD?

Pervasive developmental disorders or PDD are those conditions due to which the developments of many basic skills in children are delayed. These children face problems in socializing with others, in using their creativity and their imagination. They face many difficulties in understanding the world around them due to their problems of thinking and communication.

Pervasive developmental disorders or PDDs are also known as developmental disorders. This is because they usually occur during the developmental phase of a child- around the age of 3 years or so. The problems start much earlier, but this is the time when the problems are identified because parents usually notice a child having problems with walking and communication. The discrepancies in their development from their peers are usually the first sign which indicates that the child is suffering from developmental disorders.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Different Types of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD)

There are five types of pervasive development disorders:

  • Autism: Children suffering from autism have manifold problems. They have problems in socializing as well as in communication. Pretend play might also be tough for them and hence their range of activities and interests are limited. About 3 out of 4 autistic children suffer from some amount of intellectual disability too. Autistic children generally resist to change and this may be due to the underlying anxiety in them. They even have low muscle tone and are prone to seizure attacks as well.
  • Asperger’s Syndrome: This is another kind of developmental disorder. Just like the children suffering from autism, they too have problems in communication and socialization. But unlike autistic children, these children have average to above average intelligence. This helps them to have a normal development in the cognitive functions like those of learning and thinking. But one of their primary problems is that they have difficulty concentrating and lack in coordination. This narrows down their interests quite a bit. It is not recognized in children until they have developed language skills enough to show unusual patterns of speech and a limited span of attention.
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: This is a rare condition and affects both the physical and the mental development of a child. Between the ages of 2 to 10 years, these children forget much of the developmental skills that they had acquired. Not only do they lose their language and communication skills but also lose control over their bowel and bladder movement.
  • Rett Syndrome: Children suffering from Rett syndrome undergo some problems with their physical growth. With age, they gradually lose their control over many motor movement which includes walking and hand movements. Even their coordination degrades. It happens due to a defect in the X chromosome which explains why it almost always affects the girls.
  • Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): This is a milder form of autism where the children are too social to be held as autistic but display some problems with communication, play and interaction.

Signs and Symptoms of Pervasive Developmental Disorder or PDD

The word pervasive means “to be present throughout” but it is somewhat deceptive when used to describe the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) children. It has been noticed that the PDDs children suffer from problems in one or a few areas of working while they can easily perform well in the other areas of interest.

Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) vary widely in their capabilities. Children suffering from Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) such as autism, can show a wide range of signs that can range from gentle to crippling. They similarly even vary widely in their personal intelligence, behavior and abilities. General signs and symptoms that may be existing to in a kid with a Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) includes:

  • Complications with verbal conversation which includes issues with understanding and using language.
  • Complications with non-verbal conversations, like facial expressions and gestures.
  • Complications with social communication which includes relating to people and to his environment.
  • Repeated body movements such as head banging, spinning and hand flapping.
  • Shift in response to sound; the patient could be highly sensitive to some sounds and may not hear other sounds.
  • Strange ways of having fun with toys.
  • Complications in adapting to adjustments in routine or familiar environment.
  • Anger tantrums
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Hostile behavior
  • Anxiety or fear.

Causes of Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD

What actually causes pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) is not still known but scientists are trying their best to come up with answers. Sometimes it is contributed to the genetic causes underlying it and sometimes the reason is classified as metabolic and biochemical disorders. There might also be a complication with the nervous system as recent studies have projected. There are now studies going on regarding the examination of the brain and its functions in autistic children which supposedly will provide clues as to how doctors can cure and counter Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) like autism.

Are Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD Common?

Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) are fairly common and appear in about one out of 88 children. Most commonly they occur in boys in comparison to girls. However the only exception here lies in the event of the Rett syndrome which appears due to a particular abnormality in the X chromosome and is hence most commonly found in girls.

Tests to Diagnose Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD

If you have noticed symptoms of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) in your child, then you need to consult a doctor right away. The physician will perform his evaluation by conducting physical exams, a thorough medical history evaluation and a developmental screening inquiry. The doctor might use various kinds of imaging exams and hemoglobin tests to decide if there is any disorder underlying the resultant symptoms. However, you should know that there are no laboratory tests available to diagnose pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs).

In case of no physical disorders being found in a child, he might be directed to a professional or specialist in developmental disorders. Such kinds of specialists may include pediatric neurologist, developmental-behavioral pediatrician, adolescent & children psychiatrist or psychologist or other health professionals who have been meticulously trained to treat pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs).

The diagnosis is primarily based on the child’s level of growth and the communication skills he is displaying. Other than that, the child’s ability to play and socialize also acts as an important determinant. The doctor also takes inputs from the child’s teachers, parents and the other familiar adults in his life to help them to recognize the child’s symptoms. Developmental testing, mental and neurological examinations, as well as parent and teacher input- everything will be used to make the diagnosis.

Treatment for Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD

A plan of therapy is of utmost importance for treating children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). This is because such children have a vast range of signs and symptoms which need to be treated in the right manner. The treatment plan is more appropriately called a program of intervention because it looks forward to address to the child’s needs at his home and school. The plan does not and cannot work alone. It needs the cooperative effort of the parents, health care providers, teachers and the other people willing to extend a hand of help. Such people may be counselors, social workers, and occupational, physical, or speech therapists. The aim is to promote a better socializing and communication ground for the child and to reduce the incurrence of any kind of behavior that can interfere with the child’s learning and functioning.

Plan of Treatment for Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD

A plan of treatment for a child with pervasive developmental disorders or PDD might include:

  • Medications: There are no drugs that can be used to treat the Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) all by themselves. Medications may however be used in order to treat some specific symptoms such as hyperactivity, anxiety, and behavior that may result in injury. If a child has a seizure disorder in association with the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), then the child may need to be on antiepileptic medications.
  • Special Education: Special education is provided in a structured way so that it can meet the Pervasive Developmental Disorders child’s unique educational needs. The goal is simple- to provide the “least restrictive environment,” which refers to an education setting and ambiance that is as much similar as possible to that of the child’s peers.
  • Behavior Modifications: This might include methods for supporting positive behavior by the child.
  • Speech, Physical, or Occupational therapy: These therapies are designed to increase the child’s functional abilities.

There are many researches going on about pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). They all focus on learning more about the causes of these disorders and specifically as to what is going on in the brain. The goal is hence to use this knowledge to develop better techniques for diagnosing and treating these disorders. This will in the long run help in prevention and cure.

Prognosis or Outlook for Children With Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD

The outlook on children suffering from pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) varies depending on the type and severity of the pervasive development disorder, the age at which treatment had been started, and the way in which supportive resources were available for the child. Most children suffering from PDDs will continue to have some problems or the other with communication and socialization skills. But with the right treatment from an early age many can experience an increase in function in various areas.

Prevention of Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD

Not much is known about pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). Until more is known about the causes of pervasive development disorders, it is not possible to take actions by which we can prevent them. However, the sooner the treatment begins for Pervasive Developmental Disorders the better the chances of a good future for such a child.

If the child is getting delayed in reaching the milestones expected from him, then it is imperative for parents to discuss the concerns with the child’s pediatrician.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 18, 2019

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