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What is PDD-NOS?

Category: Blogger's Corner, Autism, ability, awareness, myths

What is PDD-NOS?

Autism itself is a heavily misunderstood condition – many prefer to view autism through common myths and stereotypes, rather than really dig down and fully understand what autism truly is and how it affects each individual differently. But particular types of autism are more obscure and misunderstood than others, and PDD-NOS is just about the most obscure ASD there is.

I’ve only ever spoken to a handful of people who were aware of exactly what PDD-NOS was without me having to explain – including those working with autistic people. ‘Autism’, ‘Aspergers’ and ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)’ all resonate, to some degree, with the public consciousness – even though the public consciousness’s idea of these is usually wildly inaccurate. But with PDD-NOS, it’s not so much an issue of stereotyping (though these come into play too), at least not at first – rather, a bit like other obscure disabilities like Dyspraxia, the problem is that few know what it actually is.

Once people are made aware of it, however, I’ve found PDD-NOS is also very easy to misunderstand. So here are three things PDD-NOS is – and three things PDD-NOS isn’t.

What PDD-NOS is:

  • A relatively new diagnosis. PDD-NOS was only created as a diagnosis in 1994, to recognise the large number of people who weren’t being picked up due to very strict diagnostic criteria for autism or Asperger’s. So it’s understandable that awareness is lower – though given a large number of people with autism have PDD-NOS, awareness still needs to be higher.

What PDD-NOS isn’t:

  • A ‘non-autistic’ diagnosis. Because PDD-NOS is often referred to as ‘sub-threshold autism’, this can give the impression that PDD-NOS means the person is ‘almost autistic but not quite’. But PDD-NOS is a part of the autistic spectrum, and it’s an ASD diagnosis just like Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. And since public awareness of PDD-NOS is low, people with the condition will often just call themselves ‘autistic’ (like I do) for convenience’s sake – whereas people with Asperger’s are more likely to use the official diagnosis to self-define.
  • ‘Mild’ autism. There is some truth to this myth; it’s at least more truthful than calling Asperger’s Syndrome ‘mild autism’, since while IQ is not affected with Asperger’s, traits can still be very severe and cause the person great difficulty. PDD-NOS is more ‘mild’ in the sense that, since it’s given when a strict autism or Asperger’s diagnosis can’t be met, people with PDD-NOS will often have fewer autistic traits in one or more areas. But other areas can be far, far more severe, and people with PDD-NOS can experience just as much difficulty as those with autism and Asperger’s, if not more so.

That’s not all PDD-NOS is (and isn’t), of course – autism is a very complex condition and psychologists’ classification methods for autism are more complex still. But as a rough guide, the points above are more or less what you should bear in mind if you ever come across someone with PDD-NOS.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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