Understanding Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Adolescents & Teens

Children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) can cause chaos within your family and near-constant disruption in your household.

PDDs affect the way the brain functions, rendering children unable to regulate their emotions, especially when faced with overwhelming external stimuli. As a result, they scream, cry and have full-on meltdowns, often in a public setting.

Understanding these developmental disorders is the first step to identifying effective solutions for helping your child learn the skills necessary for adapting and functioning in life.

What Is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder?

PDD refers to a group of disorders related to the delayed development of communication and socialization skills. Arguably, the most well-known PDD is autism, and in fact, recent changes in diagnostic criteria have combined all PDDs under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder or ASD.

The cause of PPD and ASD remains unknown. What the medical community does know, however, is that these disorders have nothing to do with parenting. Parents’ interaction with their child neither causes nor contributes to developmental disorders.

What Are the Symptoms of Pervasive Developmental Disorders?

Four primary symptoms indicate the presence of a PPD.

  1. Difficulty in social situations — The child may avoid physical or eye contact, have few friends and not engage in play.
  2. Difficulty with communication — The child may have slow development of basic language skills as well as trouble with facial expressions and gestures.
  3. Difficulty with motor skills — the child may experience challenges in mastering basic motor skills such as tying their shoes.
  4. Difficulty with sensory stimuli — The child may be hypersensitive to sounds, lights, etc.

In addition to the meltdowns that characterize autism and related developmental disorders, some children exhibit aggressive behavior and mood swings triggered by fear or anxiety. Many PDD kids also have difficulty with sleep.

Treating Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Although every neurodiverse child has unique needs, experts agree that a multidisciplinary approach works best for kids with developmental disorders. This approach can be highly effective, particularly when therapeutic intervention seeks to encourage the child’s neuropsychological development and growth.

Key areas of skills development include:

  • Increasing distress tolerance
  • Improving adaptive skills
  • Developing life and social skills

To be truly effective, a treatment plan must be customized for the needs of the individual child. Working together as a treatment team, therapists, teachers, parents and other professionals can help the student learn to socialize and communicate more effectively and overcome the behaviors that interfere with executive function and learning.

Finding the comprehensive treatment your child needs can present a challenge. To meet this challenge head-on, the Peers Academy at The Heritage Community provides residential treatment for adolescents and teens with developmental disorders and other neurodevelopmental challenges. We are committed to helping students develop the skills necessary for success.

We use an integrated framework of evidence-based practices and therapeutic interventions in a residential setting. Treatment plans are designed specifically for each child, providing whatever accommodations are necessary to meet your child’s needs. Contact us today to learn more about Peers Academy and how our program can provide everything your child needs to thrive in the presence of developmental disorders such as autism.