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Articles » NINDS Pervasive Developmental Disorders Information Page: NINDS

NINDS Pervasive Developmental Disorders Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Pervasive Developmental Disorders Information Page: NINDS

Main condition: Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Conditions: Pervasive Developmental Disorders

What is Pervasive Developmental Disorders?
The diagnostic category pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) refers to a group of disorders characterized by delays in the development of multiple basic functions including socialization and communication. Parents may note symptoms as early as infancy and typically onset is prior to 3 years of age. Symptoms may include communication problems such as using and understanding language; difficulty relating to people, objects, and events; unusual play with toys and other objects; difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings, and repetitive body movements or behavior patterns. Autism (a developmental brain disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication skills, and limited range of activities and interests) is the most characteristic and best studied PDD. Other types of PDD include Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett's syndrome, and PDD not otherwise specified. Children with PDD vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some children do not speak at all, others speak in limited phrases or conversations, and some have relatively normal language development. Repetitive play skills and limited social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information - loud noises, lights - are also common.

Is there any treatment?
There is no known cure for PDD. Medications are used to address certain behavioral problems; therapy for children with PDD should be specialized according to the child's specific needs. Some children with PDD benefit from specialized classrooms in which the class size is small and instruction is given on a one-to-one basis. Others function well in standard special education classes or regular classes with support.

What is the prognosis?
Early intervention including appropriate and specialized educational programs and support services plays a critical role in improving the outcome of individuals with PDD. PDD is not fatal and does not affect normal life expectancy.

What research is being done?
The NINDS conducts and supports research on developmental disabilities including PDD. Much of this research focuses on understanding the neurological basis of PDD and on developing techniques to diagnose, treat, prevent, and ultimately cure these disorders.


National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013-1492
Tel: 202-884-8200 800-695-0285
Fax: 202-884-8441

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
6001 Executive Blvd.
Rm. 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Tel: 301-443-4513 TTY: 301-443-8431 Depression Info: 800-421-4211 Anxiety Info: 88-88-ANXIETY (269-4389) Panic Info: 888-64-PANIC (64-72642)
Fax: 301-443-4279

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Tel: 800-241-1044 TTD/TTY: 241-1055

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Clearinghouse
PO Box 3006
Rockville, MD 20847
Tel: 800-370-2943

MAAP Services [For Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and PDD]
P.O. Box 524
Crown Point, IN 46308
Tel: 219-662-1311
Fax: 219-662-0638

Autism Network International (ANI)
P.O. Box 35448
Syracuse, NY 13235-5448

Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community (COSAC)
1450 Parkside Avenue
Suite 22
Ewing, NJ 08638
Tel: 609-883-8100 800-4-AUTISM (428-8476)
Fax: 609-883-5509

Autism Research Institute (ARI)
4182 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
Tel: 619-281-7165
Fax: 619-563-6840

Autism National Committee (AUTCOM)
P.O. Box 6175
North Plymouth, MA 02362-6175

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
P.O. Box 8923
(100 Route 37)
New Fairfield, CT 06812-8923
Tel: 203-746-6518 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-746-6481

Related NINDS Publications and Information

  • Autism
    Autism information sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Autism Fact Sheet
    Autism fact sheet developed by NINDS, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • Autismo
    Informacion en espanol del Autismo/Spanish-language fact sheet on autism compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Asperger Syndrome
    Asperger Syndrome information sheet compiled by NINDS.

    This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.

    Provided by:
    The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD 20892


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