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childhood and adolescence are times of

carefree bliss, many children and adolescents have one or more diagnosable mental

disorders. Most of these disorders may be viewed as exaggerations or distortions of

normal behaviors and emotions. Like adults, children and adolescents vary in

temperament. Some are shy and reticent; others are socially exuberant. Some are

methodical and cautious, and others are impulsive and careless. Whether a child is

behaving like a typical child or has a disorder is determined by the presence of

impairment and the degree of distress related to the symptoms. First, we will discuss

various types of pervasive developmental disorders as prominent childhood mental


  • General symptoms that may be present to some

in a child with a PDD include:

 Difficulty with verbal communication, including problems using and understanding

 Difficulty with verbal communication, including problems using and understanding


 Difficulty with non-verbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions

 Difficulty with social interaction, including relating to people and to his or her


 Unusual ways of playing with toys and other objects

 Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine or familiar surroundings

 Repetitive body movements or patterns of behavior, such as hand flapping,

spinning and head banging

 Changing response to sound (The child may be very sensitive to some noises

and seem to not hear others)

 Temper tantrums

 Difficulty sleeping

 Aggressive behavior

 Fearfulness or anxiety (nervousness).


The term “pervasive development disorders,” also called PDDs, refers to a group of

conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably

the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. Children

with these conditions often are confused in their thinking and generally have problems

understanding the world around them. Because these conditions typically are identified

in children around 3 years of age, a critical period in a child’s development, they are

called developmental disorders. Although the condition begins far earlier than 3 years

of age, parents often do not notice a problem until the child is a toddler who is not

walking, talking, or developing as well as other children of the same age.

  • Behaviors

A child or adult may continually play with only one type of toy.

The child may line up all the dolls or cars and the adult line up their clothes or

toiletries, for example, and repeatedly and systematically perform the same action on

each one. Any attempt to disrupt the person may result in extreme reactions on the

part of the individual with autism, including tantrums or direct physical attack. Objects

that spin, open and close, or perform some other action can hold an extreme

fascination. If left alone, a person with this disorder may sit for hours turning off and

on a light switch, twirling a spinning toy, or stacking nesting objects. Some individuals

can also have an inappropriate bonding to specific objects and become hysterical

without that piece of string, paper clip, or wad of paper.

  • Social-behavioral symptoms. that may be present are:

1) Lack of social awareness

2) Lack of interest in socializing/making friends

3) Difficulty making and sustaining friendships

4) Inability to infer the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of others

5) Either gazing too intently or avoiding eye contact

  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Childhood disintegrative disorder, also known as Heller’s syndrome, is a condition

in which children develop normally until ages 2 to 4, but then demonstrate a severe

loss of social, communication and other skills. Childhood disintegrative disorder is

very much like autism. Both are among the group of disorders known as pervasive

developmental disorders, or autism spectrum disorders. Both involve normal

development followed by significant loss of language, social, play and motor skills.

However, childhood disintegrative disorder typically occurs later than autism and

involves a more dramatic loss of skills. In addition, childhood disintegrative disorder

is far less common than autism. Loss of developmental milestones may occur abruptly

over the course of days to weeks or gradually over an extended period.

  • Children with childhood disintegrative disorder typically show the following signs and symptoms:

 Language, including a severe decline in the ability to speak and have a conversation

 Social skills, including significant difficulty relating to and interacting with others

 Play, including a loss of interest in imaginary play and in a variety of games and


 Motor skills, including a dramatic decline in the ability to walk, climb, grasp

objects and other movements

 Bowel or bladder control, including frequent accidents in a child who was

previously toilet-trained

  • normal function or impairment also occurs in at least two of the following

three areas:

 Social interaction

 Communication

 Repetitive behavior & interest pattern

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