Pervasiv Developmental Disorders
The diagnostic category pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), as opposed to specific developmental disorders (SDD), refers to a group of developmental conditions that involve delayed or impaired communication and social skills, behaviors, and cognitive skills (learning). The term was introduced by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. Because autism is the best-known of the PDDs, the disorders also are known as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
PDDs include Asperger syndrome and two less common conditions, childhood dis integrative disorder and Rett syndrome. Parents may note symptoms of PDDas early as infancy and typically onset is prior to three years of age. PDD itself does not affect life expectancy.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs of ASDs are usually recognizable before a childis3 years old. However, symptoms can range from severe to so subtle that they seem to be normal aspects of childhood development. For that reason, it can take a few years for an ASD to be fully identified.
That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends pediatricians look for early signs that suggest the possibility of autism at every visit and formally screen for autism at 18months and 24months, and any other time there is a concern.
Early signs can include:
trouble interacting, playing with, or relating to others
avoiding eye contact; not looking at people
not pointing to objects to call attention to them
unusual movements, such as hand flapping, spinning, or tapping
delays in developmental milestones or loss of milestones already achieved
playing with the same toy in away that seems odd or repetitive
not using or understanding language
not exploring surroundings with curiosity or interest
Kids who show a pattern of these behaviors should be evaluated by a doctor. No blood tests or brain tests (such as MRIs) can diagnose ASDs, although such tests might be done to check for other conditions that could cause the symptoms.
Causes of Autism
Causes of autism are not yet well understood. Scientists believe they are complex neuro bio logical (brain biology) problems,which might have a genetic basis like other conditions that stem from abnormalities in the chromosomes a child inherits. Some studies have suggested that autism might stem froma host of causes, including food allergies, excessive amounts of yeast in the digestive tract, and exposure to environmental toxins.However, these theories are not scientifically proven.
The vast majority of scientific studies have found no link between vaccines – or any of their ingredients – and autism. It is also important to remember that autismis not caused by parenting or bad experiences.Earlier notions that suggested this have been ridiculed.
Although there is no cure for autism, early intervention and treatment can help kids develop skills and achieve their best potential. No medications can cure PDDs, but sometimes they are used to treat certain symptoms, such as aggression toward self or others, problems of inattention, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and mood swings.
Individually tailored programs can include behavior modification, and educational interventions can help shapea child’s behaviors and improve speech and communication. Therapy should be individualized because each child’s disorder is distinct and presents specific needs, and ASDs can range from mild to severe. Some kids do well in small classes with lots of one-on-one attention.Others do well in standard classrooms with support.
The goal of treatment is to get kids with PDDs to apointwhere they can be mainstreamed into a regular classroom, although they also might require special programs and support services, including speech-language therapy.