The pervasive developmental disorders include individuals with varying levels of developmental delay across multiple systems of growth and maturity. Problems are most often seen in several of the following areas: social and emotional development; receptive and expressive language development; sensory reactivity and processing; motor tone; and motor planning. These individuals have some level of difficulty in relating to other people, in responding appropriately in social settings, and in their overall ability to adapt and make transitions into unfamiliar situations. They typically have a poor sense of behavior and its consequences or of the internal emotional life of other people, limiting their ability to relate appropriate to others. Rarely if ever are these skills missing entirely. Rather, they are sufficiently behind the level of same-age peers that these individuals stand out, particularly in social situations.
Some individuals diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorders have below average intelligence; others have an unusually well developed ability to memorize information, but have greater difficulty making connections among what they have learned and greater difficulty thinking abstractly. Many individuals with PDD show behavior patterns that feel “stuck,” that is, actions that may be mechanical, perseverative, stereotyped, or repetitive.
The following are the indicators of a pervasive developmental disorder:
Individuals with this difficulty vary significantly in their level of functioning, depending largely on their intelligence and the development of social and language skills. Progress is often excellent, leading to in involvement in all the typical activities of adolescence and adulthood. Treatment generally focuses on social and emotional skills. At home, this would include: minimizing time in isolation or in solitary activities and maximizing conversational give-and-take; helping with understanding and use of social verbal and non-verbal cues; and expanding comfort with a variety of social settings through coaching and practice. At school, this would include: expanding the application of information through analogies and comparisons; increasing comfort with transitions and variable routines; encouraging social participation through clubs and groups. Additional school-based or private services are added depending upon an individual's particular profile. These are aimed at helping the person appreciate and capitalize upon their strengths as well as improving areas of deficit so that wider options are available to them academically, behaviorally, socially, and emotionally. Progress is typically greatest if multiple areas needing improvement are addressed simultaneously, and if remedial services are adjusted to reflect current needs.