Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified is a condition in which some, but not all of the features of autism or another Pervasive Developmental Disorder are identified. It can also be called atypical autism.

PDD-NOS generally includes impairment of social interaction, communication, and/or stereotyped behaviour patterns or interest. While deficits in peer relations and unusual sensitivities are typically noted, social skills are less impaired than in classical autism and intellectual deficits are less common.

A reader story

[570] PDD-NOS and failsafe (August 2007)

Our daughter Beth is five and a half. At four she was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified, a bit of a mouthful but it sounds like Asperger's shadowing. She is not ASD but has a lot of symptoms in common: developmental delay in speech, fine motor and gross motor, attention deficit, poor eye contact, argumentative, very poor social skills, being in her own world. She has also had a tendency towards being constipated.

We had basically trained the argumentative streak out of her by about age five. Speech therapy helped a lot, her attention span improved a bit but she was still really bad with me doing home exercises. Gross motor skills were improved by a couple of years at kindergym. Preschool helped with social skills with adults but not much with peers.

THEN we went failsafe and what a blessing it has been!!!! I am very exited about this bit ... Beth's outside playtime at preschool, with up to 24 other kids, always involved getting herself a few toys and sitting by herself. Her favourite place was a large ball with holes in it that she could climb inside. 2½ years of preschool had not changed this. Ten days after starting failsafe, Beth suddenly began running around with all the other kids talking and interacting with them!! This has continued. Her special needs assistant at preschool says Beth used to move away when anyone sat next to her, even if they were not interfering with her activity or game. Now she doesn't move away and will answer questions and talk to the teachers.

Beth has always had trouble holding her pencil properly. With about two years of correcting, the best I could get her to do was two fingers and thumb. She would generally prefer four or three fingers if pushed. On the tenth day of failsafe, Beth was at Speech therapy (her second session) and held the pencil with three fingers. She was corrected and changed to one finger and thumb and coloured in three small pictures. My eyes are nearly popping out of my head. Next pencil - same process. Third pencil she picked up with three fingers, looked at the pencil and changed it to one finger and thumb!!! This may sound small but it was huge for me to see Beth actually processing a situation, problem solving. Now a couple of months on, her colouring in is quite advanced for her age, changing colours a lot and colouring in tiny sections beautifully.

Beth has never been able to draw. With lots of practice, she has learnt to draw very nice circles. All of her drawings have been unrecognisable scribble. She can't even copy basic patterns like a cross. On the 17th day of failsafe, Beth was at Occupational Therapy (her first session) and was presented with a picture of a doll with eyes, nose, one arm and one leg missing and asked to draw in the missing bits. Beth drew an arm which looked pretty much like the other arm THEN she drew five fingers without any prompting as to how many fingers we have. She then drew the leg, a shoe, two eyes, a nose and spiky hair. You can imagine I almost fell off the chair!! She then traced over all the lines of a stencilled house and did some very neat colouring in. Since then she has drawn people that look like they might be people.... still a way to go. She has copied simple pictures of a sailing boat and drawn crosses next to indicated objects.

After about six weeks of failsafe, the teacher at preschool demonstrated to all the children in a group that they were going to colour the hands, feet and faces of their cardboard people pink. Beth went ahead and did this without any help or prompting from her special needs teacher. Previously she would be unlikely to identify herself with the rest of the group and not realise that she was to do the task. She would then need someone to go over the instructions again, and she may not have been very cooperative. Her concentration span is so much better, sitting more still and listening for longer than I would have thought possible two months ago.

Beth has had swimming lessons every summer since she was ten months old. There weeks ago she was able to swim for a few metres with her face in and legs kicking but no arm movement. After 17 days of failsafe, Beth got her arms going! Beautiful arms right out of the water like it was the most natural thing. I was almost crying. I could hardly believe what I was seeing.

Beth's eye contact with people has improved out of sight. So many people, friends and teachers have commented on this. She is much more outgoing and will run up to friends and say "hello!!!" and might stay for a little talk. Her conversations are lengthening all the time.

Beth's awareness of what is going on around her has improved dramatically. Before she was always off in her own world, very difficult to focus her attention on present situations.

Although Beth's behaviour has been pretty good in the last few months, since being failsafe she argues less with her three and half year-old brother and is much quicker in responding to instructions.

Beth's bowel motions are normal now (despite only eating one pear a day... who would ever have thought!)

Every week, I hear new things that she is doing at preschool. At home she is constantly surprising us with new things that she says and does. It's great!! It is as if a block has been removed in Beth's brain and suddenly she has the possibility of being a normal little girl. Going failsafe is not easy but I had to give her the chance. Even though it may not fix all of Beth's difficulties, it seems to have removed a lot of them. Beth still has a lot of catching up to do, so it will still be a long process.

Sorry ... this email has blown out a bit!! It's very exciting!

More information about PDD-NOS: Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic

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© Sue Dengate update July 2007