Dealing With Pervasive Developmental Disorders: Advice for Parents

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Using Applied Behavioral Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis uses natural cues in your child’s environment to influence appropriate behaviors.You, your child’s teacher or other caregivers will look for triggers to negative behavior, as well as what happens during and after the negative behavior to encourage it to continue. You will then make every attempt to remove the trigger and replace it with a more positive stimulus. For example, your child may struggle to go to bed at the right time. This might be reinforced by the fact you attempt to reason with your child, therefore allowing the child to stay up later and later. In order to avoid a power struggle, you would place your child in his bed and leave him there. If your child gets out, he or she is placed back in the bedroom. If they do not, the child can be rewarded in the morning with a special treat. Planned ignorance of a tantrum or misbehavior will help the child to understand this behavior does provide the desired result. Applied Behavior Analysis is a proven way of dealing with pervasive developmental disorders.

Using Floortime

Dr. Stanley Greenspan is the developer of an approach to treatment for autism known as “Floortime”. Floortime is a child-centered therapy approach in which a parent or teacher will engage with the child in an activity that interests him or her. Floortime helps a child make important social, emotional and intellectual skills while building bonds with caretakers. Floortime provides you with a major and central role in your child’s therapy and progress. Floortime uses four specific types of play and activities - spontaneous and semi-structured play along with sensory and motor activities. Some games you can play with your child to engage him or her in Floortime include playing with a ball, building with blocks, dancing or doing puzzles. The point of each activity is to help your child engage in reciprocal play, imitation and turn taking.

Using Alternative Diets

There are numerous other alternatives for dealing with pervasive developmental disorders, including various nutritional therapies. While some may report success, clinical studies do not show improvement in all nutritional approaches. A gluten and casein free diet has been shown to improve the behavior and attention span of some children with pervasive developmental disorders. This diet involves removing certain foods, such as those that are wheat or milk based, from your child. You may need to provide your child with dietary supplements to ensure the proper amount of nutrition. Vitamin B-12 shots can be given along with folic acid supplement to help a child’s behavior and attention span as well.

Using Medications

A variety of medications can be used to treat pervasive developmental disorders. Many of these medications can treat the aggression, irritability or repetitive movements and stereotypic behaviors a child with these disorders demonstrates. The four main types of medications that are used to treat these disorders are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotic medications, stimulant medications and seizure medications. The following is a list of medications approved for use with autism in children ages 3 and older:

  • Adderall
  • Dexedrine
  • Dextrostat
  • Haldol
  • Mellaril
  • Depakote
  • Tegretol

The following medications have been approved for use with autism for children ages 6 and older:

  • Adderall XR
  • Cocerta
  • Ritalin
  • Zoloft
  • Focalin
  • Straterra

Several other medications can be used when a child reaches the ages of 10 to 18, such as:

  • BuSpar
  • Effexor
  • Luvox
  • Sinequan
  • Zyprexa
  • Orap
  • Eskalith

Recently, the FDA has also approved Risperal and Abilify as recommended treatment regimens for autism and autism-spectrum disorders.

Using Play Dates and Social Activities

Since many children with pervasive developmental disorders struggle with social skills, play dates, classes and other social opportunities are a great way to help them. Sign your child up for music, art or gymnastic classes to help broaden his or her social skills and talents. Choose classes based on your child’s interests or strengths. Talk to parents of other children with pervasive developmental disorders about organizing a standing play date with the children or have your child interact with the children of friends or neighbors. A special school for children with developmental disorders might be the best solution for your child. A specialized school allows your child to interact with other children his or her own age while receiving structure and education from a qualified teacher. Contact your local school district or early intervention agency to find out more information.

Will It Work?

All of the above mentioned methods for dealing with pervasive developmental disorders may or may not work for your child. Consult your child’s peditrician or autism specialist before beginning any medical treatments or diets. Many of the medical treatments recommended for autism have not shown proven results with enough childen to be considered reliable. ABA therapy and pictoral behavior charts will likely give you the best chance for success.