Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). This is the term, or rather diagnosis, that is used when an individual has some signs and symptoms of autism, but not all of them. It doesn’t mean an individual is higher functioning, such as with Asperger’s. It more or less means someone is within the realm of the autistic spectrum. Here again, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually described a medical condition. I admit, I’ve cheated. I just simply say, “RJ’s on the autistic spectrum.”

Diagnosing PDD-NOS

As parents, we watch to ensure that our children are reaching milestones with the “normal” time range for their ages. If a child is not reaching those milestones, their pediatrician may recommend a thorough evaluation, which will both pinpoint a child’s strengths and their weaknesses. There are some common characteristics children will show that may have them diagnosed PDD-NOS. They are as follows:

  • Scattered skill levels in developmental and cognitive areas
  • Repetitive sounds or body movements such as rocking or clicking their fingers
  • Difficulty transitioning from one activity to another
  • Difficulty in dealing with changes in routine
  • Communication skills are lacking or not understood

Depending on other findings of the evaluation, a child will either be diagnosed with a specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or categorized as PDD-NOS. As of late, there have been changes in the diagnoses and evaluations regarding Autism, Asperger’s, and PDD-NOS. I don’t put a label on RJ. He is who he is. That’s good enough for me.


Hmmm. How does RJ fit into the above-mentioned categories and description? Well, he pretty much as all of the above characteristics, and probably a few more that I didn’t list.

RJ is quite scattered in his development and his cognitive skills. Many times, I’m dealing with a toddler. When he’s not a toddler, he’s definitely a teenager. I sometimes question his comprehension of things I’m telling him. If I talk to him as I would a toddler, he comes back at me with the oppositional attitude of a teenager. And vice versa. He is probably more knowledgeable than me in regards to computers, but does have the ability to realize when he’s in danger.

RJ’s repetitiveness comes in the form of both sounds and clicking his fingers next to his ears. While he’s watching his beloved ceiling fans on his iPad, he will make a monotone sound the whole time. If he’s watching fans at the store, he will make the noise, click one hand’s fingers next to his ear, and bite the other hand. These are his normal self-stimulating behaviors. He’s finding his balance somewhere in there. It’s interesting in that while repetitive things are good for him, they also hurt him. The sounds of a siren, alarms…sounds that have a repetitive rhythm to them but stop suddenly, can trigger major meltdowns.

When we transition from activities that he’s really enjoying, we start 15 minutes early. For example, when we go to Menard’s, RJ immediately heads to the fan department. After a short time, I will approach him and say, “ok Bubba, we’re leaving in 15 minutes.” I remind him every few minutes. Then when we can finally leave, both of us wave happily to the ceiling fans and say, “So long ceiling fans. We’ll see you next time!!” Ceiling fan time is also used as a reward for transitioning from one behavior to another.