PDD-NOS, along with Autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder were all five separate diagnoses on the autism spectrum. But in 2013, the DSM 5 grouped all five disorders under one umbrella; autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Today PDD-NOS is no longer considered a diagnosis. Yet, in this article, we’ll discuss what PDD-NOS was, including discussing its past symptoms and providing treatment options for ASD.
What Is PDD-NOS?
PDD-NOS or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified was a part of the autism spectrum before 2013. Someone received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS if they presented autistic traits but didn’t completely meet the criteria for other disorders such as Asperger’s or autistic disorder. Using this criterion was quite confusing, so in 2013 the DSM 5 included PDD-NOS under the autism spectrum disorder to provide a broader range of symptoms.
PDD-NOS versus Asperger’s: What’s the Difference
While both diagnoses are irrelevant today, there are a few differences between them. Previously, PDD-NOS was the go-to answer for a child or adult who presented some autistic traits such as difficulties with speech but didn’t meet the full criteria for other subtypes. Whereas the criteria for Asperger’s included little to no delay in communication or cognition but had challenges in social interaction, sensory integration, and repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities. To better understand PDD-NOS, let’s discuss the symptoms and causes.
5 Symptoms of PDD-NOS
While no two people with ASD are alike, previous symptoms of PDD-NOS included;
- Communication difficulties
- Unusual play with toys
- Difficulties adapting to changes in routine
- Repetitive body movements or behaviors
- Difficulties with social behaviors
After the DSM-5 grouped the symptoms of PDD-NOS, along with the other autism disorders, the traits of ASD are now in two distinct categories:
- Deficits in communication and interaction
- Restricted or repetitive movements
Each category has specific characteristics that determine whether or not someone meets the criteria for ASD, including looking at their level of support and severity.
2 Causes of PDD-NOS
Given the complexity of autism spectrum disorder, the causes are relatively unknown. But a combination of genetic and environmental factors likely plays a role;
- Genetics. Research reports several genetic mutations may be involved but the evidence isn’t clear. Some studies also show a connection between ASD and other genetic disorders such as fragile X syndrome or Rett syndrome
- Environment. Current research is still exploring whether viral infections, medications, environmental pollutants, or pregnancy complications may contribute to causing ASD.
Even though the exact causes are undetermined, therapy is an important part of treatment that includes several modalities to support someone with ASD. The therapies offered below may also help reduce autistic burnout.
7 ASD Treatment Options
1. Applied behavior analysis
While each case is unique, applied behavior analysis is the gold-standard treatment for ASD in early child development. Typically, a therapist creates 1:1 structured learning environments that minimize distractions and teach a child what to expect when they enter classroom settings with their peers through positive reinforcement. Overall, this therapy provides children opportunities to gain social skills and independence, and hone their individual strengths.
2. Speech therapy
Many people who receive a diagnosis of ASD undergo speech therapy to improve their language and communication. For instance, this might look like helping a child form words or sentences or teaching an adult how to understand and apply language in their personal and professional lives. In a broader sense, speech-language pathologists help individuals comprehend and improve their verbal, nonverbal, and social skills, like recognizing body language and facial expressions, asking and answering questions without prompts, and improving grammar.
3. Occupational therapy
One of three therapies commonly offered in school settings along with speech and behavioral, occupational therapy helps those with ASD perform better in their daily lives. This performance looks like learning academic skills such as schoolwork and handwriting and hygienic skills, including bathing and dressing. Other areas include fine motor skills, sensory integration, social skills, low motor tone, and play skills.
4. Social skills therapy
One of the most common challenges for people on the autism spectrum is social interaction. For example, some struggle to maintain eye contact, conversations, respond with please and thank you, and ask or answer questions. There may also be problems reading social cues or understanding someone’s thought processes and emotions. Social skills therapy, therefore, helps by building cognitive and communication skills, enhancing relationships, and teaching other skills beneficial for personal and professional interactions.
5. Music therapy
In combination with other treatments like applied behavior analysis, research shows music therapy can be quite helpful in children with ASD. It addresses cognitive, social, and emotional needs by providing an avenue of expression. Learning another creative outlet of self-expression can specifically lead to reduced anxiety, decreased maladaptive behaviors, assistance in social skills, shared play experiences, and improvement in gross and fine motor skills – many traits associated with ASD.
6. Cognitive behavior therapy
Through cognitive behavior therapy, individuals learn how to recognize and understand the connection between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This talking therapy is also helpful in those with ASD. For example, a session may involve looking at a stressful sensory situation like coping with bright lights in a workplace. Then, identifying how it affects your well-being, and learning to change your thoughts.
7. Alternative treatments
Beyond traditional therapies, alternative treatments are also widely used to help treat behavioral problems and symptoms. A few include;
- Diet. Did you know your thoughts and feelings impact your digestive system? Yes, it’s why The Autism Society recommends eliminating casein and gluten that cause inflammatory and digestive problems. By doing so, many believe it will decrease negative symptoms, but the evidence is still unclear.
- Sleep. A common symptom of ASD is sleep difficulties. Therefore, many children and adults with ASD experience sleep problems and might benefit from melatonin to their sleep.
- Relaxation techniques. Depending on someone’s condition, massage therapy, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation may soothe agitation, and decrease anxiety.
While PDD-NOS was one of five separate diagnoses in the DSM 4, since 2013, it is no longer a valid diagnosis. It now exists under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many of the treatment options mentioned in this article aim to reduce negative behaviors, and create a better quality of life. Remember, no two cases are the same, and each treatment plan will look different.
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