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Autism Spectrum Disorders

Pervasive Developmental Disorder

The disorder known as pervasive developmental disorder is actually the name of a fraternity of 5 different pervasive developmental disorders. They are: asperger syndrome, autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and rett syndrome. Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder and autism all fall under the autism spectrum disorder category. The other two, based on their rarity, are sometimes considered for this category. They all affect the individual’s communication, behavior and socialization.

The use of the term pervasive development disorder can get quite confusing, as some doctors use it when they actually mean pervasive developmental disorder. Or, some use it when diagnosing infants as they are not 100% sure as to which disorder it is until the child grows older and the symptoms become more distinguishable.


Intelligence, behavior and abilities vary greatly among individual’s with pervasive developmental disorder. For instance, some can speak rather normally (at the same level as others in their age group), while some cannot speak at all. Reactions to sensory information can also seem quite odd.

Symptoms of pervasive developmental disorder are usually centered around communication. Symptoms include: unusual play with toys and other objects, repetitive body movements, repetitive behavior patterns, inability to be comforted, inability to cuddle, difficulty understanding and using language, difficulty with changes in routine, difficulty in familiar surroundings and the difficulty in relating to people, objects and events.


With autism it is uncertain whether gene mutations are what cause it or rare multigene interactions. With rett’s syndrome it is believed to be gene mutations or and excess of NMDA receptors and spinal fluid. Asperger syndrome seems to be genetic. Ultimately, they believe the answer lies somewhere in the genes, like many of the other syndromes. The cause of childhood disintegrative disorder has not yet been discovered. So far, there is no known medical or neurological cause for this disorder. Finally, pervasive developmental disorder is difficult to explain, as it can share the symptoms of all the other four pervasive developmental disorders, just mild enough not to meet the DSM-IV criteria.


There is no cure for pervasive developmental disorder. Medications that are used are based on the individual’s specific behavior patterns.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be used. Anti-psychotics also work for some individuals. Beta-blockers sometimes work. NMDA inhibitors work for those with rett’s syndrome. Likewise, therapy is also something that can vary due to the needs of the individual. Generally, physical and occupational therapies are the most commonly used when working with individuals with pervasive developmental disorders.

The best way to work with pervasive developmental disorder is to begin as soon as it shows itself. This can be as early as birth (the child may start to seizure). It is important to set up customized supports and programs to help guarantee the individual leads as healthy and happy a life as possible. This means having the same opportunities as their peers, being able to communicate with their loved ones and ultimately feeling like they have a place in this world.


Pervasive developmental disorders do not contribute to life expectancy themselves. Rather, it’s some of the symptoms and order disorders that co-occur with them that affect life expectancy. There are examples of varied outcomes when it comes to mortality. For instance, for rett’s syndrome the mortality rate is quite high among males – most not living past 2 years of age. This has to do with the genetic mutation occurring on a specific chromosome. On the other hand someone with mild asperger syndrome can live a full life.


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