Pervasive Developmental Disorder: What it is, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Pervasive Developmental Disorder: What it is, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Pervasive Developmental Disorder: What it is, Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Raising a child is not an easy task, there are many doubts and sometimes very few resources at hand. This is even more enhanced when our children have some type of generalized developmental disorder. From the first signs to diagnosis and treatment, understanding PDD is essential to being able to provide appropriate support to children who have it. In today's post, we will tell you in detail what PDD is, its characteristic symptoms, the different types of disorders and the treatment options available.

What is pervasive developmental disorder?


Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) is a term used to describe a group of conditions that affect the development of basic skills, such as the ability to communicate and relate to other people, and the use of imagination. These conditions typically appear in childhood maturational delay and can have a significant impact on various areas of development and daily functioning.

What are pervasive developmental disorders?

Pervasive developmental disorders are found in the diagnostic and treatment manuals of psychology and are:

Autistic Disorder

People with classic autism often have problems understanding and responding appropriately to social interactions, appearing indifferent or having difficulty forming and maintaining relationships. They often experience delays in speech development, repetitive use of language, or problems starting and maintaining conversations. They perform repetitive movements, need unchanging routines, and have an intense focus on very specific interests.

Asperger's disorder

People with Asperger syndrome are characterized by having difficulty understanding unexpressed social norms and may appear socially naive or insensitive. They often have very specific interests and develop deep knowledge in those topics and although they generally do not have significant language delays, they may have a formal or quirky communication style and difficulties understanding figurative language or humor.

Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified

PDD-NE, also known as atypical autism, is diagnosed when the symptoms do not completely meet the criteria for other specific autism spectrum disorders, but instead present characteristics such as:

  • Difficulties in social interaction and communication similar to those of classic autism, but less severe or more atypical.
  • Presence of restricted interests and repetitive behaviors, but in a way that does not fit neatly into the definitions of the other disorders.

Rett disorder

Rett disorder is a rare genetic condition that almost exclusively affects girls and is characterized by:

  • Normal early development: Children with Rett usually have apparently normal development during the first 6 to 18 months of life.
  • Loss of skills: After this period, they begin to lose previously acquired motor and communication skills.
  • Repetitive movements: One of the distinctive signs is the presence of repetitive hand movements, such as wringing them or washing them.
  • Motor problems and slowed growth: These include difficulties in coordination and a slowdown in head growth.

Childhood disintegrative disorder (Heller syndrome)

Childhood disintegrative oppositional defiant disorder in children is an extremely rare condition where children develop normally until approximately 2 years of age. After this period, they experience a dramatic and significant loss of previously acquired skills, including social, communication, and motor skills. This regression is severe and affects multiple areas of development, with a notable loss of social and communication skills.

Causes of pervasive developmental disorder

There are various causes that can cause developmental disorders. Among them are:

  • Chromosomal or genetic abnormalities: These can lead to conditions such as Rett syndrome.
  • Exposure to certain substances during pregnancy: The clearest examples are alcohol and drugs, both extremely harmful to the baby's health.
  • Specific infections during pregnancy: Some infections can affect the development of the fetus.
  • Premature birth: Being born early often increases the risk of developing developmental disorders.

Common symptoms of a pervasive developmental disorder


The symptoms that a child presents will depend on the generalized developmental disorder he or she has. Some of the symptoms that could occur are:

  • Apparent lack of empathy: It may be difficult for them to understand and respond appropriately to the feelings and emotions of others.
  • Poor eye contact: They often avoid looking into other people's eyes.
  • Preference for solitude: They may prefer to be alone and show little interest in sharing experiences with others.
  • Delayed language development: Some take longer to learn to speak or do not develop spoken language.
  • Difficulty starting or maintaining conversations: They may have trouble starting or following conversations.
  • Repetitive use of language: Repeating words or phrases insistently and without a clear communicative purpose.
  • Difficulty with non-verbal communication: They have difficulty interpreting gestures, facial expressions and body language.
  • Repetitive movements: Such as hand flapping, body rocking, or spinning.
  • Insistence on routines: They are very inflexible when faced with changes in their daily routine.
  • Restricted interests: They usually have intense interests limited to specific topics, sometimes obsessively.
  • Ritualized play: They will want to play in specific, repetitive ways, lining up objects or repeating the same actions over and over again.
  • Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to stimuli: They may overreact or underreact to sensory stimuli such as lights, sounds, textures or flavors. For example, some may find certain lights or noises unbearable, while others seek intense sensory stimuli.
  • Delays in cognitive development: Some individuals show delays in intellectual development.
  • Attention and concentration problems: They have difficulty staying focused on tasks or may show hyperactivity.

How is PDD diagnosed?

The diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) is a complex process that involves detailed evaluation of multiple areas of a child's development. This process begins with parenting style observing certain symptoms and is continued when the child is referred to specialists, such as child psychologists, child psychiatrists, pediatric neurologists, or developmental therapists, for a thorough evaluation.

The specialized evaluation usually includes in-depth interviews and questionnaires to collect information about the child's development, behavior, and social and communication skills. Specialists apply standardized tests and structured observations to evaluate a child's cognitive, linguistic, motor and social skills. During this process, it is crucial to differentiate PDD from other conditions with similar symptoms, such as language disorders, intellectual disabilities, anxiety disorders, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Once the evaluations have been completed, the multidisciplinary team prepares a detailed report that includes the diagnosis, the child's strengths and weaknesses, and recommendations for actions and treatments to help in their development and education.

Treatments for pervasive developmental disorder

Treatments for pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) focus on addressing each individual's specific symptoms and providing comprehensive support to improve functioning and quality of life. These treatments are usually multimodal and adapted to the individual needs of each person. Below, we briefly discuss some of the common interventions used in the management of TGD:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): This approach focuses on reinforcing positive behaviors and teaching new skills through structured learning study techniques for children and rewards.
  • Directed play therapy (DIR/Floortime): Used to encourage social interaction and emotional development, allowing the child to direct the activity while the therapist accompanies and guides them.
  • Early intervention therapy: Aimed at young children, it focuses on addressing specific areas of development, such as language, communication, and social skills.
  • Speech therapy: Focuses on improving verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as developing pragmatic and conversational skills.
  • Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC): Provides tools and strategies for people with severe communication difficulties, such as the use of pictograms, electronic communication devices, and sign language.
  • Sensory therapy: Helps children regulate their sensory responses and tolerate various sensory stimuli.
  • Daily Living Skills Training: Teaches practical skills necessary for self-care, independence, and participation in everyday activities for children at home 2024

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  • Specialized Education: Individualized educational programs provide a discovery learning environment tailored to the child's specific needs, with an emphasis on academic and social support.
  • Inclusion in the regular classroom: Inclusion in regular educational settings is encouraged whenever possible, with the support of teachers and special education specialists.
  • Psychological support: Offers help to manage stress, anxiety and other emotional problems related to PDD, both for the child and their family.
  • Parent Training: Provides guidance and resources for parents to learn effective behavior management strategies and promote the positive development of their children.
  • Medications: In some cases, medications are prescribed to treat very specific symptoms such as hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, or sleep disorders.


In conclusion, pervasive developmental disorder is a condition that presents significant challenges for those who experience it and their caregivers. From early indicators to diagnosis and beyond, it is crucial to address PDD with understanding, support and education. Through a combination of specialized interventions, adaptive therapies and psychosocial support, it is entirely possible to improve the quality of life of children with PDD and help them reach their full potential.

Author: Kiddus Team

At Kiddus we take pride in creating high-quality accessories for kids that are both functional and fashionable. Our team is composed of professionals in the children's industry, including designers, engineers, and child development experts. We work together to create innovative and safe products that meet the needs of both children and parents. With years of experience and a passion for quality, we strive to exceed expectations and bring joy to families around the world.

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