What is PDD-Nos? Criteria and Symptoms

PDD Nos or Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified , is a type of diagnosis given to individuals on the autism spectrum. As a diagnosis, it fits somewhere between Aspergers syndrome and classic autism.

Often it is used as a kind of catch all for those that do not fully fit into either category , it can be used as a diagnosis when there is little or no data to support a typical autism diagnosis with regard to the early part of one’s life. Usually classic autism features developmental issues and social retardation from an early age. With pdd nos this information is not always necessary for medical professionals to make an attempt at diagnosis.

The symptoms of PDD NOS

Child with PDD Nos

The major symptoms used to diagnose are:

Social Impairments

Difficulties relating with other people, making friends and feeling accepted and part of a group. It is quite common for the person to avoid eye contact and have little or no interest in making friends choosing very often play alone.

 Communication impairments

Problems managing self expression and the the understanding others through verbal or non-verbal communication such as  interpreting facial expressions, jokes or forms of emotional expression.

Repetitive  behaviours 

This can include odd behaviors such as lining up objects in a row or obsessively talking about the same subject repeatedly. Obsessions about eating certain foods , methods of playing or certain routines are also strong indicators of this condition.

While these are not the only symptoms, there are other behaviors associated with other conditions that are common with PDD, these include: Autistic Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.

DSM IV Criteria 

DSM commonly known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is widely recognized around the world by various psychiatric associations as a standard for clinical diagnosis.

The DSM IV definition of the category for Pervasive Development Disorders Not Otherwise Specified is:

“This category should be used when there is a severe and pervasive impairment in the development of reciprocal social interaction or verbal and nonverbal communication skills, or when stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities are present, but the criteria are not met for a specific pervasive developmental disorder, schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, or avoidant personality disorder. For example, this category includes “atypical autism” –presentations that do not meet the criteria for autistic disorder because of late age of onset, atypical symptomatology, or subthreshold symptomatology, or all of these.”

The methodology behind  PDD-Nos diagnosis is now becoming a very contentious issue. Many argue that that the definition is too weak and that even medical professionals disagree about the correct diagnosis. This could well be a classic example of being placed in a box.

Testing for PDD NOS 

Unlike with Aspergers, there unfortunately does not exist a wide range of testing materials for self diagnosis. The condition by its very nature is difficult to diagnose as it is in essence an umbrella for many conditions within the Austim Spectrum. If you are looking for clues as to the likelihood of having pervasive development disorder, we can recommend either using the generic autism quotient test or by using this experimental assessment on the childbrain website.

If you are concerned whether you may have the condition, we strongly recommend that you visit a medical professional to get more professional advice.

Where is PDD NOS in DSM V

With the advent of DSM V things became a lot less diverse in all areas of the autism spectrum. Classic autism, Aspergers and PDD Nos are being rolled into a single Autism Spectrum category.

This is a cause of controversy for many members of the autistic community who feel that the change in diagnostic criteria is unwelcome. Generic diagnosis such as this never truly represents  the true condition of the individual. Some boxes may be ticked but not others, but for the medical professional it does seem easier to give someone a more generic label than to take the time and really understand what is going on.

PDD Nos Resources

There is a neat checklist that can be used for spotting  diagnosis on the  autism resource website .
Also check out Barbara Quinns book on Pervasive Development Disorder which we highly recommend as a resource guide on the subject.

You can also find a list of recommended books and other resources on our website.

Photo courtsey of Lance


Mark Blakey

Mark Blakey is the founder of the Aspergers Test Site, after a successful career working in IT Mark wanted to share what he learned from his own diagnosis. He is the author of "Emotional Mastery for Adults with Aspergers" and "An Introduction to Aspergers Syndrome". Having received lots of questions from parents with autistic children, Mark went on to found Autism Parenting Magazine. The magazine has become an essential resource aimed at improving the quality of life for families effected by Autism. Its a monthly publication containing lots of helpful articles to help develop social skills, manage challenging behavior and improve communication.

  • parenting and child health says:

    Kids are usually more inclined to participate in activities
    or be interested in things that they have a natural gift for.
    As their parents, we must acknowledge that although there have probably been successes along the way, what we have
    been doing for some time is not working and it won’t
    work. In most cases, this kind of approach is what many parents utilized once they notice their teens are seriously worrying about
    their problems.

  • jamie says:

    I’m 30 years old and want to know how other people with PDD nos or aspergers are getiin on in life are they working? Is their job a 9 to 5 just to get a wage or are they working in a field that they chose out a love, interest or natural ability ?? Hope to hear back!!!thanks for reading..

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