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PDD–NOS is sometimes called ‘atypical autism’.

Children diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD–NOS) have developmental delay. They also have some signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), like difficulties with social communication. But they don’t meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis.

Diagnosis of PDD-NOS

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed according to a checklist in the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, the DSM.

In the past, the DSM categorised children with ASD as having autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder or PDD–NOS.

The most recent edition of the Manual, DSM-5, was published in 2013. It changed the criteria used to diagnose children with ASD. DSM-5 combines the three categories into one, which is just called autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

If your child already has a diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome or PDD-NOS you can keep using these terms if you want to.

The information in this article applies only to people who have been diagnosed using criteria in the fourth edition of the DSM, DSM-IV. If you’re worried your child might have ASD, talk to your child and family health nurse or GP.

PDD–NOS: common characteristics

Like children with autistic disorder or Asperger’s disorder, children with PDD–NOS will find social interaction hard, or show repetitive behaviour with routines and rituals. Children with PDD-NOS can also have high levels of anxiety.

PDD–NOS: what a diagnosis means

Pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is a diagnosis that describes children who:

  • have developmental delay and some symptoms of autism spectrum disorder
  • don’t meet the strict criteria for autism spectrum disorder.

In the DSM-IV manual, the criteria for autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder included a certain number of characteristics relating to social and communication skills, and also characteristics relating to repetitive behaviour.

Children diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD–NOS) have only some of these characteristics. But they still need support and early intervention services.

Sometimes a PDD–NOS diagnosis was followed by an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis a few years later.

If your child has a diagnosis of PDD-NOS, you’ll probably know about finding early intervention and support services. Support for many children will come from the National Disability Insurance Scheme as it’s rolled out across Australia.
  • Last updated or reviewed 13-10-2016
  • Acknowledgements

    This article was developed in collaboration with Cheryl Dissanayake and Cherie Green, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University.