MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Rolla     ●    St. Louis



Quick Answers



The pediatrician was concerned that my child may have autism, so he arranged for us to see a doctor that specializes in developmental medicine. After some testing, the second doctor gave us a diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified. What is the difference between autism and pervasive developmental disorder?

Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is the current “general” diagnosis for many disorders on the Autism Spectrum, including autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Rhett’s Syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. Sometimes, a physician will use the term PDD-NOS when there are recognizable “autistic-like” characteristics being displayed in an individual, but the testing is inconclusive or incomplete to meet the criteria for a more specific diagnosis. In addition, some physicians will use the term PDD-NOS because of attitudes/stigma attached to the word “autism.”


What is most important for you to realize at this point is that whatever terms you or your physician chooses to use, neither is an indicator of possibilities the future holds for your child. Each child is an individual, and there is no prophecy in the “label” used to describe an individual with a disability. You can obtain more information about autism spectrum disorders from the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Center at 800-444-0821 or



Michelle Reynolds, Director of the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Center, University of Missouri-Kansas City





Can't Find Your Question Here? Try Searching Our Quick Answer Knowledge Base

Last update: Monday, April 12, 2010



University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator: 
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri-Columbia