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Q: My child has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS. What is PDD-NOS? Is it the same thing as autism?

 

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A: PDD-NOS stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. Essentially, it is a diagnosis that means “on the autism spectrum, but not falling within any of the specific categories of autism.”

Within the DSM IV, a manual that practitioners use to diagnose neurological disorders, there are five disorders that fall under the category of Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD): autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and PDD-NOS. A child would be diagnosed with PDD-NOS if he has symptoms of Pervasive Developmental Disorders, but not enough of any of the four specific disorders to receive a diagnosis.

Thus, your child does have PDD, but he does not have autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, or fragile X syndrome. As a result, he received the catch-all diagnosis of PDD-NOS.

Many of the disorders that fall into the category of PDD have overlapping symptoms. Below, I have explained some of the symptoms that are particular to each one of the four specified disorders in the DSM IV.

Autism:

  • Late talking (after the age of two), and other developmental delays by 30 months
  • Chooses to play alone, rather than interact with others
  • Repetitive movements such as rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping

Aspergers Syndrome:

  • Above average verbal capabilities
  • Obsession with complex topics as patterns or music
  • Scripted, robotic, or repetitive speech

Rett Syndrome:

  • Half or more of children with Rett syndrome have seizures
  • Normal verbal development until around 12-18 months, then a subsequent loss in the ability to communicate
  • Slowed growth, especially apparent in head size at six months of age

Fragile X:

  • In males, a decreased IQs; in females, variable IQs
  • Social anxiety when placed in situations in which they are forced to interact with others
  • Spoken language often characterized by stuttering and omitted sounds in a sentence

 

Right now, physicians do not agree when exactly a child should be diagnosed with PDD-NOS, autism, or Aspergers syndrome. Because of this, it is possible for the same child to receive different diagnoses from different doctors even as he exhibits exactly the same symptoms.

Regardless of the diagnosis, research has shown that children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders have significantly better results when treated from an early age. In fact, studies conducted showed that children who began treatment at the age of two had fewer than half of the symptoms as compared to children who began treatment after the age of eight.

Treatments for PDD-NOS vary depending on the range and severity of the symptoms. However, some typical and effective treatments include:

  • Play therapy: Through play (a child’s natural mode of expression), children learn to cope with emotional issues. In this way, children can manipulate the world on a smaller scale, something that cannot be done on an everyday basis.
  • Sensory integration therapy: Through a gradual introduction of averse stimuli, children become used to situations that might have otherwise made them uncomfortable. (For example, some children with PDD might not tolerate the noise that scissors make during a haircut. A trained specialist would slowly integrate the scissors, the noise, and then the noise near the child’s head in order to make haircuts more bearable).
  • Social skills training: Coaching in non-verbal communication and everyday interactions can help children gain the essential skills to make friends and pay attention to teacher that do not come naturally because of PDD. This can greatly improve the child’s social experience for the rest of his life.

You did a great thing by taking your son to get a diagnosis because it is the first step towards getting treatment that can improve your whole family’s quality of life. With help, children with PDD-NOS, can lead full (if complicated) lives.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.
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