According to the DSM IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), the diagnostic category of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) refers to a group of disorders characterized by delays in the development of socialization and communication skills. Parents may note symptoms as early as infancy, although the typical age of onset is before three years of age. Symptoms may include problems with using and understanding language; difficulty relating to people, objects, and events; unusual play with toys and other objects; difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings; and repetitive body movements or behavior patterns. Males are two times more likely to be diagnosed with PDD than females (Stewart, 2003). Autism, a developmental brain disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication skills, and a limited range of activities and interests, displays the most characteristics of and is the best studied PDD. Other types of PDD include Asperger's Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Rett's Syndrome (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger’s Syndrome, and autism are more often referred to as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Children with ASD vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some children do not speak at all, others speak in limited phrases or conversations, and some have relatively normal language development. Repetitive play skills and limited social skills are typically evident. Unusual responses to sensory information, such as loud noises and lights, are also common. Children with ASD may also have poor eye contact, solitary and limited imaginary play, difficulty expressing and understanding emotions, hand flapping, echolalia and an intolerance for changes in routine (Solomon, Hessl, Chiu, Hagerman, & Hendren, 2007). ASD frequently involves other associated features including mental retardation, seizures and a co-morbidity with other genetic factors including fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex (Volker & Lopata, 2008). In addition, children with ASD can be expected to have co-morbidity with other conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and self-injurious behaviors (Simpson, 2008). Therefore, autism spectrum disorders have an enormous affect on a child’s interaction with the environment, school performance, self esteem, family life and ultimately their future. There has been a great amount of attention given to ASD, perhaps due the rise in prevalence over the past decade. Current estimates are that 1 in 150 children fall somewhere on the autism spectrum (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism, retrieved June17, 2009). ASD is more common than Down Syndrome, juvenile diabetes and childhood cancer (Simpson, 2008). ASD has also gained attention because it is a disorder with unique and puzzling behaviors. Intriguingly, some individuals with ASD have below average intelligence and abilities, while others have above average or gifted abilities. In addition, some display astonishing isolated abilities and amazing splinter skills (Simpson, 2008). Lastly, although there is much variance in symptoms among children with ASD, they all share a common genetic profile (Solomon et al., 2007). For the purposes of this paper, I explore PDD-NOS. Children receive a diagnosis of PDD-NOS when deficits in social reciprocity and communication are not severe enough to receive a diagnosis for Asperger’s or autism. They fit some of the characteristics of ASD, but cannot be categorized by any other disorder. Currently, PDD-NOS is considered to be like autism but not autism. It is milder than autism, shares some of the symptoms of autism yet some symptoms are not present (Solomon & et al., 2007). PDD-NOS is interesting because children who have this diagnosis can differ widely in functioning and behavior. There is so much variance among these children...
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