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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs)

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How Are Pervasive Developmental Disorders Diagnosed? continued...

If no physical disorder is found, the child may be referred to a specialist in childhood development disorders, such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist, pediatric neurologist, developmental-behavioral pediatrician, or other health professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat PDDs. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on the child's level of development and the child's speech and behavior, including his or her play and ability to socialize with others. The doctor often seeks input from the child's parents, teachers, and other adults who are familiar with the child's symptoms.

Developmental testing, mental and neuorlogical examinations, as well as parent and teacher input will all be used to make the diagnosis.

How Are Pervasive Developmental Disorders Treated?

Because children with pervasive developmental disorders have a range of symptoms and abilities, a plan of therapy must be developed with the child's specific needs in mind. The treatment plan -- or more appropriately, a program of intervention -- will address the child's needs at home and at school. For that reason, intervention planning is a cooperative effort of the parents, health care providers, teachers, and others who may be needed to provide services. This may include counselors, social workers, and occupational, physical, or speech therapists. The plan aims to promote better socializing and communication and reduce behaviors that can interfere with learning and functioning.

A plan of care for a child with a PDD may include:

  • Special education: Education is structured to meet the child's unique educational needs. The goal is always to provide the “least restrictive environment” so that the child with autism will have typical role models.
  • Behavior modification: This may include strategies for supporting positive behavior by the child.
  • Speech, physical, or occupational therapy: These therapies are designed to increase the child's functional abilities.
  • Medication : There are no drugs to treat the PDDs themselves. Medications may be used, however, to treat specific symptoms such as anxiety, hyperactivity, and behavior that may result in injury.

What Research Is Being Done on Pervasive Developmental Disorders?

Most of the research being done on pervasive developmental disorders focuses on learning more about the causes of these disorders, specifically what is going on in the brain. The goal is to use this knowledge to develop better techniques for diagnosing and treating these disorders, ultimately leading to prevention and cure.

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