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A to Z: Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)

May also be called: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, PDD-NOS

A pervasive developmental disorder, or PDD, is a condition that delays a child’s development of social and communication skills.

More to Know

Kids with a pervasive developmental disorder have differences in the way their brains develop and process information. They might have language delays or trouble communicating with others. They may also do certain unusual or repetitive behaviors or have problems learning in school. Psychiatrists consider PDD to be a type of autism, but some psychiatrists and psychologists use the terms autism and PDD interchangeably. Some people also use PDD to describe a less disabling form of autism.

Depending on the child, PDD can cause children to have few or many problems that may interfere with everyday tasks. Family members may notice a difference in a child with PDD by 2 or 3 years of age, but sometimes it can take longer to fully identify the condition. Early on, a child may not explore his or her surroundings with curiosity, or he or she may play with a toy in a way that seems odd or repetitive.

Treatment for a PDD is tailored to each child's individual needs. This may include behavioral, educational, speech, and occupational therapies to help kids learn how to take care of themselves, communicate and play with others, cooperate with social rules, and minimize unwanted behaviors. Sometimes doctors also give medications to treat certain symptoms.

Keep in Mind

Kids who show signs of having a PDD should be checked out right away by a psychologist or another doctor who treats developmental disorders. Although there's no cure for a PDD, early intervention and therapy can help kids develop skills and achieve their best potential.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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