Pervasive developmental disorder affects brain function, and is characterized by problems involving communication and social skills. Pervasive developmental disorder is neither a mental illness nor a psychological disorder, but rather a lifelong neurological disorder. Autism and Asperger's syndrome are among the most well known pervasive developmental disorders.
Autism is usually diagnosed within the first 3 years of life, whereas Asperger's syndrome is usually not diagnosed until the child reaches school age. Boys are 4 times more likely than girls to have autism, and families who have one child with a pervasive developmental disorder have a higher risk of having another child with such a disorder.
It was once thought that vaccines were somehow involved in causing autism. This however, has been disproved and it has been shown that vaccines are not, in any way, associated with autism.
Symptoms vary in type and intensity based on the disorder. Those with pervasive developmental disorder tend to retreat into themselves, avoid eye contact, and show very little variation in facial expression. Generally speaking, individuals with pervasive developmental disorder have certain traits in common:
- They develop differently from others in the areas of communication, social skills and behaviour
- They may have limited interests and repetitive patterns of behaviour
- Small changes in routine can trigger acute distress
In spite of all these similarities, those affected are unique and have skills that are specific to them. Depending on the pervasive developmental disorder, other symptoms and behaviours may also affect the person in question:
- Obsessing over certain things
- Outstanding memory
Many people with Asperger's syndrome can lead independent lives. They usually do not have any delay in language development and may, in fact, use an advanced vocabulary.
Diagnosis is based on the observation of the child's behaviour and an interview with the parents. Early diagnosis and intervention can help children develop skills in areas of concern.
Children who benefit from early and personalized interventions have a greater likelihood of improving their communication skills. To achieve their full potential, intensive support and specialized educational programs are needed. There is no single treatment or program that is effective for all those suffering from pervasive developmental disorder.
To help those with pervasive developmental disorder in their daily life, those around them must provide a comforting environment and prepare them in advance for any changes to their routine.
For more information or for support:
Autism Society Canada