Pervasive Development Disorders - Symptoms

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What Are the Symptoms of Pervasive Development Disorders?

The use of the word "pervasive" to describe these illnesses is somewhat misleading. The definition of pervasive is "to be present throughout," but children with PDDs generally do not have problems in all areas of functioning. Rather, most children with PDDs have specific problem areas and often function very well in other areas.

Children with PDDs, such as autism, can display a wide range of symptoms which can range in severity from mild to disabling. They also vary widely in their individual abilities, intelligence, and behavior.

General symptoms that may be present to some degree in a child with a PDD include:

  • Difficulty with verbal communication, including problems using and understanding language.


  • Difficulty with non-verbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions.


  • Difficulty with social interaction, including relating to people and to his or her surroundings.


  • Unusual ways of playing with toys and other objects.


  • Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine or familiar surroundings.


  • Repetitive body movements or patterns of behavior, such as hand flapping, spinning and, head banging.


  • Changing response to sound. (The child may be very sensitive to some noises and seem to not hear others.)


  • Temper tantrums


  • Difficulty sleeping


  • Aggressive behavior


  • Fearfulness or anxiety (nervousness)
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