Autistic disorder versus other pervasive developmental disorders in young children: same or different?
- Cite this article as:
- Allen, D., Steinberg, M., Dunn, M. et al. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2001) 10: 67. doi:10.1007/s007870170049
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Eighteen preschool children diagnosed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Third Edition Revised (DSM III-R) as having Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) were compared to 176 children with DSM III-R Autistic Disorder (AD), and to 311 non-autistic children with developmental language disorders (DLD) (N = 201) or low IQ (N = 110). All children were partitioned into “high” and “low” cognitive subgroups at a nonverbal IQ of 80. Within cognitive subgroups, the 18 PDD-NOS children did not differ significantly from either the DLD or the AD children in verbal and adaptive skills and obtained scores intermediate between those of these groups. The PDD-NOS did not differ from the AD children in maladaptive behaviors. Both the PDD-NOS and AD children had many more of these behaviors than the non-autistic comparison groups. Children in the “high” and “low” cognitive subgroups of AD, but not of PDD-NOS, differed substantially on most measures, with the children with lower cognitive scores significantly more impaired on all measures. Similarity of PDD-NOS children to AD children in maladaptive behaviors and an intermediate position between autistic and non-autistic groups on virtually all measures explains the difficulty clinicians encounter in classifying children with PDD and raises questions about the specificity of these diagnostic subtypes of the autistic spectrum.