You may be familiar with autism and its different types and spectrums, but you may not know how those types differ. Autism can be seen in varying degrees and it may be hard to understand how Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) differs from another type of autism, Asperger’s syndrome. These two types are the more mild forms of autism, so we will be taking an in-depth look at both to help you better understand them and their differences.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

This subtype of autism is considered a “high-functioning” form on the spectrum. Children and adults with this form of autism typically have difficulties with social interactions and understanding social norms. Their range of interests is usually restricted and they may also exhibit repetitive behaviors. According to Autism Speaks, people with Asperger’s may also have developmental delays, uncoordinated motor movements, and general clumsiness.

When comparing Asperger’s syndrome with the more severe forms of autism, these children and adults do not tend to have very significant delays in language or cognitive development. And even though they may have restricted interests, those with this type of autism tend to be very intelligent and specialized within those fields of interest.

The most common behaviors and/or symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome are as follows:

  • Repetitive speech
  • Inappropriate or limited social interactions
  • Nonverbal communication challenges (facial expressions, lack of eye contact, etc.)
  • Overall inability to understand social or emotional issues
  • Obsession with very specific topics
  • Tendency to hold one-sided conversations
  • Awkward mannerisms
  • Possible developmental delays, although not significant

What is Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)?

This subtype of autism may be considered the mildest form on the spectrum. Also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, this diagnosis became the go-to answer for children and adults who can be classified on the autism spectrum, but do not completely meet the criteria for the other subtypes. According to Autism Speaks, Pervasive Developmental Disorder is “the diagnosis they use for someone who has some but not all characteristics of autism or who has relatively mild symptoms.

Like Asperger’s, those with Pervasive Developmental Disorder tend to have significant challenges when it comes to social and language development. This diagnosis is typically used for people who meet the basic requirements for autism, but do not exhibit the more severe characteristics, like extreme repetitive behaviors, intellectual limitations, or inappropriate mannerisms.

Usually a person is diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder if they exhibit social and communication challenges, but simply do not exhibit other symptoms of Asperger’s, like obsessions over certain topics, developmental delays, or awkward mannerisms. People with Pervasive Developmental Disorder typically live mostly ordinary lives and are considered the highest-functioning of all autism subtypes, but can have issues relating to people, understanding language, accepting change in surroundings or routines, and dealing with their own emotions.

Related Resource

Autism can be a difficult topic to understand, especially for those trying to figure out if they or someone they know fit into one of the many categories. Affecting almost 1 in 68 children, it’s important to understand the symptoms and be as proactive as possible. The information here will help you better understand the slight differences between the more mild forms of autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Asperger’s syndrome.