Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) vs. classic autism


New Member
My difficult child 2 has been diagnosis'd as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, but he is showing so many autistic traits, that I am wondering if he would qualify as classic autism. He does a lot of stimming: rocking, hand-flapping, arm flapping, finger twisting, sucks his thumb as a comfort measure. He also does this thing, where he rips tags off of his clothes, and rubs them up and down his face. Is that a stimulant? He head-bangs when he gets angry, kicks, and hits. He doesn't like to be touched a lot, and squeezes me, if he does. OR, taps me on the head. He is verbal, but tries to do sign language, and at times will just stand toward what he wants and will whine, or will take the milk out, but won't say what he wants.

He has a hard time with transitioning, has a lot of sensory issues, and does echolalia. He talks baby babble a lot too, and is really obsessed with reading off numbers. For example, a church songbook: he will open it, and read off the numbers of the songs in order.

He has a lot of perservation (I think that is the term) where he is obsessed, and takes a long time, to get over things. His teacher has noticed this too. He fell on the playground and skinned his knee, and obsessed over it, from the time he came home until bedtime. I had to lay with him, to get him to go to sleep because he was worked up. He will not wear anything with a lot of stripes or plaid. He has a meltdown.

He has fine/gross motor delays, speech delays, and is developmentally delayed.

He has a lot of anxiety isssues, especially bedtime. Bedtime is rough. He gets scared, when a lot of people are around.

And he is really attached to his curious george. I think he is going to graduated with the diploma in one hand, and george in the other.

Just wondering, if I should have him re-assessed, or leave it as is?



Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified is a diagnosis that falls under Autistic Spectrum Disorder. So is High-Functioning Autism (HFA). I see he is getting some interventions at school. Do you think the difference in the diagnosis would change his medical treatment or school interventions? What would be your reason for having him re-assessed?


Active Member
As smallworld said, both are austistic spectrum diagnosis's. If changing the label would obtain him better modifications and services, then go ahead. But if it would get nothing different it would seem to be an unnecessary expense and trips to docs etc. at this point. It was the reason I pushed for a label, to get the mods my difficult child needed, but he wouldn't get any different mods from Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) to High-Functioning Autism (HFA).


New Member
Thanks for replying. His diagnosis for school is listed as autism (Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified), so he gets a lot of the autistic therapy. Sometimes, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified is classified as a catch all because of the developmental delays, but he has so many of the autistic characteristics, I am wondering if he would be able to get the classic autism diagnosis. One reason for such, is that he is listed in the moderate range, of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified. He still at 8, needs a lot of help with self-care, he needs a lot of re-direction, and he has some bathroom issues. Immature for his age, and has a lot of issues.

He is getting ST and Occupational Therapist (OT), learning support, and sped. But, he still is having some issues with meltdowns, being able to stay on task, and lately, he has been having a hard time with his obsessions. His sped teacher today, stated, that yesterday, he was really upset and fixed on the scrape on his knee, and had a hard time with staying on task and focusing. The behavior issues were a major concern last year, and are this year as well. We had his in ESY over the summer, and they have an aide that works 1:1 with him, to be able to stay on task. He is mainstreamed, but goes out every day for learning support, and sped (also therapy). I guess as a mother, I worry that as the work gets harder, things might get worse, and he is going to have a hard time with mainstreaming.



High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is high-functioning autism. Why would having that diagnosis help the situation in any way? In fact, if he had the High-Functioning Autism (HFA) diagnosis, there might be higher expectations and less support.


New Member
I tried to change the name, because I was referring to classic autism, not high functioning. At first I thought of more high-functioning, but realized that he wouldn't be in the high-functioning category. He is in the moderate level for Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified.

I hope that makes sense.

Sorry about that. Things have been really chaotic here, with the 2 GFsG. :hammer:



Well-Known Member
Our neuropsychologist, who diagnosed Lucas with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, said that sometime, in the near future, autism and all it's cousins, will be called one thing: Autistic Spectrum Disorder. I believe it. My son is labeled Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified (basically meaning atypical autism--some traits, but not enough to be autistic and not Aspergers). He does the stuff your son does, but he has really leaped of late as far as progress. I truly believe that's due to all his school intervetions. As long as your chld has a diagnosis. of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified he is "autistic" and should get the same interventions classic auties get. My son is entitled to all of them, but we've dropped some because he doesn't need them anymore. I wouldn't worry about the label--both classic autists and kids with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified require the same sort of treatment, maybe at different levels. You should have no trouble getting school help for your child. My son seemed much more "autistic" when younger than he does now. I know he still is, but it's weird. He's 13 and it's like he's finally "coming to."


Mine hasn't been assessed since he was 3. I see no point to it. At the time he fit clearly into Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified. Now, who knows? Many Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) folks move from one category to another. My only concern would be if you're giving him medications. All of what you say are his diagnosis are very likely part of the Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). That is, he doesn't have medication treatable anxiety, he has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) need for consistency, and so forth. I'd stay away from medications, personally.

Mine is now 12 and was much like yours at maybe 3 or 4. But mine has had a lot of autism treatment. He was 4 yrs in an autism specific school being seen by videocam once a week for a half hour by Dr. Miller of Miller Method. These video cam therapies were primarily educational for me and the teachers. Dr. Miller spent a half hour a week pointing out how to help him. I believe that is why mine is where he is today. He's still seriously communication handicapped and has many of the things you describe like obsessions. But we can get him out of them easily enough. He has no problem with transitions anymore, would never know he did now. Your son can progress. But if all you've got is a Special Education teacher with a couple hours of autism classes, you're not going to get far. That's a very typical profile of an autism teacher in public schools unfortunately. I went to all the therapy appts, the video therapies, sat in on his classes, took Dr. Miller's 4 day course for teachers, read, did everything I could to learn how to help my kid at home. I also believe, as do most therapists, that there's a direct correlation in a child's long term prognosis and the amt of treatment the child has had at home.


Active Member
It's really difficult, and sometimes maybe inappropriate, to subdivide autism spectrum disorder into sub-categories. You get the ones who fit this category as well as that, or don't seem to fit it at all except when you really look closer; or maybe are given a cursory assessment that overlooks hidden abilities or hidden problems.

The issue always boils down to - how is your child coping? What does your child need? What is helping your child? What is making it more difficult for him?

The overall Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) assessment is the same for us in Australia but different health professionals have different ideas, beyond that.
difficult child 3 is moderate on the Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) scale. When originally diagnosed we were told he was "borderline" which is the politically correct way of saying, "he's retarded."
"He will never be able to attend a normal school," they told us. "Maybe in another year you could begin making enquiries but he won't be ready for ANY school by then, it will take him much longer to get there, if at all."

difficult child 3 still scores moderate on the Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) scale. However, his IQ has since tested as mid 140s. He is definitely high-functioning.

The people we've seen also define "high functioning" as "able to communicate with minimal deficits". In other words, difficult child 3 has now caught up with his significant language delay. There are still speech oddities with him as well as weird gaps in his knowledge but his drive to learn and "pretend to be normal" as he puts it, are closing the academic gap.

difficult child 3 has some strange needs at times. We've found that our method of home schooling (correspondence) is the best so far for helping him in every way. he has improved socially and done brilliantly academically. Yesterday at his end of year Presentation Day he received awards as follows: first in German, first in Maths, second in Music, equal third in Technology. A year ago we didn't think this would ever happen.

The best you can hope for in your child is for him to be happy and the best he can be, given what he has to deal with. Our job as parents is to help him achieve this. If the best he can be is to simply learn to communicate and develop some basic living skills, then you have won. If, as we hope with difficult child 3, the best he can be is to work professionally with computers later on, then that is our target.

If you feel you need a more specific diagnosis for this, then go for it. But be prepared to not get the results you feel are correct - opinions really do vary a lot.

Have you read anything by Temple Grandin? I've talked to difficult child 3 about her; from what I gather, she was as severe as difficult child 3 in childhood but intensive intervention and therapy helped her find her own direction. The combination of her own drive, other people's positive support and her own inbuilt abilities have got her to where she is today. I have attended a lecture of hers when she came to Australia - it was inspirational.

The best thing you can do is support your child, nurture him like the egg of a rare, valuable bird you want to help hatch. Love him, enjoy him, stimulate his mind and general development. He is a rare, priceless treasure who can develop into a wonderful human being, with your help.

As parents we do what we feel we have to, to help our children. Something in your mummy gut is telling you that you could be doing more. Explore that, find out where it's coming from, and see what you can do in every way to help him. The explosive behaviour- check out "Explosive Child" and see how you can begin to implement things. We've found it made a big difference to difficult child 3 and as a follow on, his development progressed dramatically once we reduced his frustration and anxiety.

You do what you do. Trust your instincts. Be prepared to break rules because our kids ARE different and learn differently.


Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
I know the autistic spectrum disorders can be confusing.

T is also Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified but when he was young he had tons of classic autisim traits. (what I would class as severe) As he aged, he seemed to progress out of the severity, although slowly.
At 20, his maturity is still hovering at around 12-13 yrs. I still have to all but drag him in the bathroom to maintain hygiene. (yuk)

If you think a new diagnosis for severity will help with more services..... Well, I would do an instensive investigation into what services would change, or if they would change, before even considering it. Because if his services, treatment won't change, there really isn't much point. And he may be like T and progress as he ages.