Good question! I wish I knew exactly. It’s defined by what it’s not.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. The PDD part means Autism Spectrum or ASD. The NOS part is important because it means it isn’t Asperger’s, Classic Autism, CID, or Rhett’s.
My son was diagnosed in October 2012, so I am learning all about this right now, as I live it and learn to cope. It really helps to know what to research.
This is the place I am putting the best bits that apply to my life and my son’s life. Mostly, because it’s a bit of a catch-all diagnosis, it’s harder to find people going through exactly the same thing.
For my son, it seems to be about not being able to communicate perfectly. He is high-functioning, so he makes his needs known, but he doesn’t string words together the way we all learned to do. When he reads, he often skips the’s and a’s, those words aren’t concrete enough for him – they don’t form a picture.
He doesn’t think the way most of us do. He is extremely literal. He really loves animals and he wants everything to be fair. And when it’s not fair, especially fair to him, he’s anxious. When he’s anxious (and he’s home) he has a big tantrum. He hyperventilates, he starts repeating words and rocking, he stomps, he screams, he slams doors.
We are blessed that he is socially aware enough to control his emotions. He hasn’t had a massive tantrum in public for about 3 years now. Which is good because he’s a really big boy to be acting like he’s four. The public doesn’t fully understand, heck, sometimes I don’t fully understand.
To the casual observer, he appears pretty normal. Talking with him can be a challenge, but he’s quite polite and behaves really well in public. He’s learned how to earn praise from strangers by holding doors and saying, “May I please have,” and he really likes it.
Emotionally, he’s younger than his nearly 5′ size would indicate. Every owie is major stuff, he’s hypersensitive to his own pain. (Suck it up doesn’t work well with this one.) He doesn’t fully comprehend social situations and he gets easily frustrated and withdraws.
He has some strong food aversions, to the point that he’ll throw up
He’s a sweet, complicated kid who knows he’s different from his peers and his brother. I hope to help him learn to cope.
Below is an excerpt from Jon Brock’s blog Cracking the enigma. I felt like it summed up the frustration of explaining that my son is autistic. No, not that sort of autistic, no, not that sort either.
“Pervasive Developmental Disorder” is an umbrella term covering five diagnoses:
- Autistic disorder
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Rett syndrome
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
As the name suggests, PDD-NOS is generally thought of as a residual category for people who have a pervasive developmental disorder but don’t quite fit into the other more specific categories. However, this all gets a bit circular because “pervasive developmental disorder” is defined only in terms of its constituent diagnoses. You’ve got a pervasive developmental disorder if you have any of the five diagnoses above (including PDD-NOS), and you’ve got PDD-NOS if you don’t have the other four.