Disorders of Childhood: Pervasive Developmental Disorders

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A child who demonstrates severe and persistent difficulties in several areas of development (social interactions, language and communication, repetitive and stereotypical behavior) may be affected by a Pervasive Development Disorder. Generally, the problems appear in the first few years of life. Pervasive Development Disorders are frequently, though not always, associated with some degree of mental retardation. Autistic Disorder, Rett's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified are all grouped under the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

Males are four times more likely to be affected by Pervasive Developmental Disorders than females. However, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rett's Disorder (approximately 1 out of 10,000 births) is more commonly reported in females than males. Autism rates have increased dramatically over the past few years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20 to 70 out of every 10,000 American children have autism. Asperger's Syndrome, which may be characterized as a mild form of Autism, occurs in about 26 out of every 10,000 children (according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry).


Because there is no cure for Pervasive Development Disorders, most treatments are aimed primarily at symptom management. Treating Pervasive Developmental Disorders is a complex and time-consuming task. Treatment typically takes place within the framework of an individualized intervention program; a collaboratively developed plan that parents and providers produce that describes the interventions that will be used with a given child. These individualized treatment plans, which usually involve multiple independent interventions, coordinated so as to fulfill both short and long term goals for both the family and the affected child, are necessary to maximize each child's fullest potential. Community and home-based treatments are generally preferred over institution-based treatments as prolonged institutionalization makes it harder for children with PPD to best develop the social and other skills necessary for optimal functioning in non-institutional, least restrictive settings.

Our Autism and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders topic center contains a fuller description of Austim and other PDDs which you can read for more information.

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Recommended readings:

Growing Up With NLD by Deborah Green

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at Home: A Parent's Guide by Pamela Tanguay

Addressing the Challenging Behavior of Children with High Functioning Autism/Asperger Syndrome in the Classroom: A Guide for Teachers and Parents by Rebecca A. Moyes

Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ by Daniel Goleman

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