Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is one of the autistic spectrum disorders. Autistic spectrum disorders is a group of psychological conditions characterized by abnormalities of social interactions and communication as well as limited interests and repetitive behavior. Children with PDD-NOS have delays in motor, language, and social skills.


There are many causes of PDD-NOS, such as:

  • Lack of oxygen.

  • Head injury from trauma.

  • Hormonal imbalances.

  • Toxins such as lead.

  • Genetic and biochemical disorders of the body.


Symptoms of PDD-NOS include delays in all areas of development, such as:

  • Movement (motor) development:

  • Large muscle groups like the legs (gross motor skills).

  • Small muscle groups like the hands (fine motor skills).

  • Language development:

  • Delayed use of words.

  • Repetitive or unusual use of language.

  • Social development:

  • Interaction with other people.

  • Understanding social conventions such as personal space.

Symptoms can differ in severity. Symptoms in many children improve with treatment or as they age. Some people with PDD-NOS eventually lead normal or near-normal lives. Adolescence can worsen behavior problems in some children or cause depression.


The diagnosis of PDD-NOS is based on clinical symptoms. Formal testing may be done to confirm the diagnosis. Once PDD-NOS is diagnosed, a health care provider may order the following tests to find out what caused the symptoms:

  • Thyroid tests, if none are done at birth.

  • Lead level tests.

  • Hearing tests.

  • Genetic and chemical tests.

  • If there are seizures, an electroencephalogram (EEG), a recording of brain waves, is obtained.

  • Neuroimaging tests may be done if there has been injury to the brain or there is a loss of developmental skills.

  • Ophthalmologic evaluation regarding biochemical or genetic disorders.


There is no cure for PDD-NOS. The most effective treatments combine early and intensive therapies geared to the specific needs of the child. Treatment should be ongoing and re-evaluated regularly. Treatment is a combination of:

  • Social therapy to help your child learn how to interact with others, especially other children.

  • Behavioral therapy to help your child cut back on obsessive interests and repetitive routines.

  • Medication to treat the symptoms of PDD-NOS, including:

  • Depression and anxiety.

  • Behavior or hyperactivity problems.

  • Seizures.

  • Coordination therapy.

  • Speech therapy.

  • Helping children with their over sensitivity to touch and other sensation.

With treatment, most children with PDD-NOS and their families learn to cope with the symptoms. Social and personal relationships can continue to be challenging. Many adults with PDD-NOS have normal jobs. They may need ongoing family or group support.


  • Physical activities often help with coordination.

  • Children with PDD-NOS respond well to routines. Doing things like cooking, eating, and cleaning at the same time each day works best.

  • Meeting with teachers and school counselors often helps to ensure progress in school.

  • Children with PDD-NOS may realize that they are different and may become sad or upset. Counseling and sometimes medication may be needed for issues such as depression and anxiety.


  • Your child has new symptoms that worry you.

  • Your child has reactions to medicines.

  • Your child has convulsions. Look for:

  • Jerking and twitching.

  • Sudden falls for no reason.

  • Lack of response.

  • Dazed behavior for brief periods.

  • Staring.

  • Rapid blinking.

  • Unusual sleepiness.

  • Irritability when waking.

  • Your older child is depressed. Symptoms include:

  • Unusual sadness.

  • Decreased appetite.

  • Weight loss.

  • Lack of interest in things that are normally enjoyed.

  • Poor sleep.

  • Your older child has signs of anxiety. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive worry.

  • Restlessness.

  • Irritability.

  • Trembling.

  • Difficulty with sleeping.