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Pervasive developmental disorders

Pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) refer to a group of disorders that involve delays or problems in communication and social skills. Signs of PDD are usually noticeable by the time a child is 3. Signs of PDD may include:

  • Problems with using and understanding language
  • Difficulty relating to people, objects, and events
  • Unusual play with toys and other objects
  • Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings
  • Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns

Children with PDD vary widely in their behaviors and how well they function. For instance, some children do not speak at all, others speak in limited phrases, and some use language fairly normally. Autism is the most common PDD. Asperger syndrome is the mildest type of PDD.

The causes of PDDs are unknown, but all of them seem to involve problems in the brain. Although there is no cure for PDDs, behavioral therapy and school interventions can help children with PDD function better. Medicines can treat some behavioral symptoms.

Adults with PDD are able to function at varying degrees depending on the severity of the disorder. Many adults with milder forms of PDD are able to work and live on their own or with some help. Still, difficulties communicating and relating to people can cause problems in many areas of life. People with PDD can benefit from skills training, support, and therapy into adulthood.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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