Updated date:

PDD-NOS High Functioning Autism and my child; plus tips I've learned


Is your child normal? My child is not. What is normal anyway? Normal is anything within the expected and acceptable range of behaviors. Kids with high functioning forms of autism like PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorders - Not Otherwise Specified) look normal but don't act or react to normal situations like every other kid. In fact they look so normal that people often have no idea that they are autistic. But the way they perceive the world is vastly different from your perception of the world.

My son is eight years old, light brown hair, and sparkling blue eyes. He is social, speaks well, can make friends easily and play on the playground just like everyone else. But he is different, and you wouldn't catch onto it if you didn't know him. You might think, "that was a little strange", if you saw a behavior you weren't familiar with, but you'd pass it off that everyone's a little different. But meanwhile my son is struggling. Struggling with just how to react, how to fit in, what to say next, or maybe just forget it and walk away instead. It's more than what normal children go through, it's a constant battle for him to conquer behaviors and exert self control.

He obsesses about the littlest things, he gets confused by too many words, he is easily distracted. He worries at the weirdest times. Some days he wears his feelings on his sleeve, and other days I swear his heart and head are made of brick. He can't read people's faces, and puns and jokes go right over his head. He is conscious of having privacy when changing clothes one minute and then can be found changing in the front yard the next because he's in a hurry and forgot to care about that kind of thing. He will cooperate at times wholeheartedly, but other times you will have to bribe him just to finish a page of homework, or eat his lunch. He is eager to please mommy, but will also get my attention in negative ways on purpose. Like climbing a tree I told him not to and then calling me outside to see, and being proud of himself, because he has already forgotten that I disapprove of this. He craves and demands routine. If his routine is out of whack, everyone around him will be sorry, because he will start acting out until you can reestablish the routine he is familiar with. He will ignore a fireworks show and busy himself catching bugs instead. He gets overwhelmed by sensory information like excessive noise, or commotion and will balk at going into busy restaurants. But at the same time he is the cause of a lot of our family's sensory overload. My son also has ADHD, and he is as hyper as they come. If he wasn't on meds you'd have to scrape him off the ceiling. His attention span is less than two seconds long. On meds he can participate in school for a few hours at a time. But by the time evening comes he can barely stop moving long enough for you to look him in the eye.

Believe it or not, a lot of childhood conditions co-exist and dual diagnosis is common. In fact my son is also bipolar. Yes, that makes three co-existing conditions. PDD-NOS, ADHD, and bipolar. Some people are very much against diagnosing conditions when they are so young. But getting a diagnosis can be critical to your child receiving appropriate services through the school system and in mental health circles. Doctors are more willing to revise diagnosis's in children as their symptoms change or improve, and you the parent play a big role in advocating for your child in any scenario. The less denial you have over your child's condition/s the more in control you will be of their care.

Getting back to the main topic of this hub, PDD-NOS, there are many things that you can do to help a child with this diagnosis function better.

1. Use flashcards with pictures of people displaying different emotions to train your child to recognize these emotions on the faces of people in their life. That way the visual information they see in real life will be more easily translated and they won't feel so lost and can adapt to current situations as they encounter them.

2. Practice self calming techniques. Deep breathing, counting, a favorite small stuffy to squeeze, weighted blankies; all these things can help reduce stress when going into a situation or environment that makes the child anxious or scared or to help them calm down once they are triggered.

3. Every family has some sense of routine. If you have to go out of routine, explain it to the child beforehand and let them know when things will be back to normal. This way they have a sense of control because they know beforehand and can often "wait it out". If you visit family out of town like we do, even keeping a their regular bedtime routine will help satisfy some need for normalcy.

4. Rehearse common conversations with your child so that making friends will be easier. Practice the basic, "Hello, how are you?" "I am fine, thanks." "My name is so and so, what's yours?" "Would you like to play?" Role playing like this with mom and dad will make everyday conversation with peers come easier.

5. Encourage the child with a one-track mind to be open to talking about other subjects. Work with them on several subjects they can talk to other children about to help them not seem so rigid. Teach them how to talk about what they like for a few minutes and then switch to a new subject to allow their friend to talk about what they like.

6. If a child with PDD-NOS gets overwhelmed by their environment or someone in their environment be willing to give the kid a breather. Taking the child outside for a ten minute break away from what is triggering them can often be enough for everyone to keep their cool. At restaurants, I will often put a large menu around me and my son to shut everyone else out for a minute or two if I see him getting overwhelmed. Often this is enough to help him regain control.

7. Don't protect them too much. Let them feel some physical pain. Let them get their feelings hurt. But be there to teach a lesson when it happens. These kids have a really hard time processing consequences and information from their environment. You can help them process what happened and learn from it to use for next time.

Each child with PDD-NOS is a little different. They all have their own special needs and ways of functioning. Being there for your child is the best thing you can do. Accept them for who they are and they will show you just how special and unique they really are. Use every situation as a learning tool, but be careful not to squash their creativity. They often are "out of the box" thinkers and will surprise you with the neatest observations. These little guys see the world so differently than we do, and sometimes their view is actually pretty good!

  • Nutritional Treatments of Autism - Fatty Acids
    FATTY ACIDS Background We have, for a long time, been told that fats are bad for us. Whilst many fats are, some are not, and these good fats are essential to the effective functioning of the brain...


McKenna Meyers on July 21, 2015:

My son was officially diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 6 but, lucky for us, he had been receiving occupational therapy and speech therapy for years. His unique ways were difficult for strangers to understand, but family was the worst, especially grandparents. They wanted to blame his unusual behavior on bad parenting and were unwilling to learn about sensory integration disorder and the autism spectrum. It's important for parents to develop a support system, enjoy their children for being different, and don't compare. Great hub!

mom on December 13, 2013:

my son is 2 years old he is diagnosed with PDD-NOS. he can only say mama papa, dirty , come, ( not properly use the words) he is so smily , he like to take piture , he love the camera light , he love classical music he is the most amazing boy , i love him more than any thing in this world he is my only child i am 25 now i am from ethiopia and autism is not known that much i didn't get any therapy till now but i try it by my self , i think i am the 1 st mother who says my boy have autism at the age of 20 months .

Angeles on April 09, 2013:

My son is four and he has pdd nos. his my life and I really love him. I'm back in college because of my son. He give me the courage to go back and it a challenge for me. I was a bit afraid but now I'm not. His just give me that push to go on. I some times say his my special angel but his more then that.

zestyzee on July 23, 2012:

I enjoyed the explanation of PDD through your child's eyes because I have a daughter diagnosed with it. Your tips were great but maybe because you aren't aware but there are a lot more useful tips. My daughter used to be super hyper as well to the point of injury because she was so overwhelmed. When I cut out bananas, apples and sugar from her diet that decreased dramatically. She was a different person. She listened, didn't run off or do things that would put her in danger. Another tip is turning off the wi-fi we had on 24 hours a day. Babies and toddlers cannot excrete toxins from their cells when wi-fi is on. We switched out wi-fi ADT to home phone ADT as well. Lastly, when your child is constipated it worsens the symptoms because it is a build up of toxins in the body. These tips should be tried as well to mellow the other symptoms that go along with PDD.

Samreen - email me at zk914@Aol.com for more tips based on your specific situation.

drew_nicmills on July 10, 2012:

Thank you for this article. My son is 5 years old and it was as if you were talking about him.

Lisa from Northeast U.S. on June 10, 2012:

This was a great article and I can also relate as well and I appreciate the tips - sometimes I forget the basics!!!

Samreen on April 05, 2012:

.gets aggressive and hits if u don't listen to him

.is very moody about when he wants to be hugged kissed or touched.

Samreen on April 05, 2012:

Hi, need help! I have a 2.1 yr old son who displays some & not all the signs of autism spectrum disorder..I live in Saudi, and here we have limited access to evaluation centers our therapists or developmental pediatricians. Have contacted this one institute that we found online & they have put us on a waiting list for an appointment. We are confused bc some days he acts totally normally & we can't help but ask ourselves if we are wrong to think if something is actually wrong with hun or not! My ques to u is, do high functioning autistic kids react differently with people they are familiar with, & differently with strangers? Do they have comfort zones? Im listing the things we see in him that make us think there might be a problem, I wud really really really appreciate ur input on this!

.vocabulary if only 10-15 words that he uses in his every day routine. Can not make any 2 word sentence except give me.

.has strange attachments to in animate objects like soap, pots, pans, spoons & pillows. If u try to take them away from him, he starts crying and screaming. Sometimes u can calm him down by distracting him, sometimes he calms down himself, sometimes he keeps crying and screaming.

.sometimes he reacts to a change in his routine by becoming cranky, but sometime he seems totally fine with it.

.he plays fine with his older (3.5yr) sib and younger (10mth) sib, sometimes shares, understands rules of the game, but sometimes gets aggressive when asked to share & u just can't get through to him if u try to explain to him how to play a game.

.he has very a very short attention span & its extremely difficult toread to him or show him flash cards.

.he repeats words if u say it to him, but doesn't use a lot of new words in his every day use.

.he points to things when he wants somethings, drags me my the hand if he wants me to give him something.

.totally one track mind. U CAN NOT get through to him AT ALL if he wants something. Things like "wait" or "do this first" don't make sense to him at all.

.gets frustrated very easily

.cries very loudly, at times is scared of nothing, like sitting on the edge of a table, or touchinga lighted matchstick, & at other times, starts crying for me to holds him if he standing on a table & can't jump down.

.his social interaction is strange, sometimes he won't play at all with other kids, ignore them totally, sometimes will get aggressive with them & hit them & think its a game & won't stop even if the other kids crying. will stand really close to them at times or follow them around. Or will play with them for a few mins & then leave & do something on his own.

.very hyper at times constantly moving, & unusually quiet & still at others..stares into space & looks confused

.lines up whatever he is playing with, straightens paintings on the wall it floor mats if crooked, shows obsessive behavior by repeating actions in his play..

.follows simple instructions IF nothing else on his mind...if he is already thinking or wanting to do something, u can't get through to him at all.

.can pretend play like pretend to eat with an empty spoon

.till about 2mths back, had always been very emotionally independent, but now is very clingy & anxious when away from me.

We get confused bc acts well with his sibs, shares, plays etc..but doesn't with other kids... Do u think he is a high functioning autistic on the spectrum?

Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on April 02, 2012:

@Nami, that is interesting and I would ask your doctor about it. Is your child teething? It may just be something new that he discovered about his body functions and is entertaining himself, but definitely check with your doctor. Good luck and God Bless!

Nami on April 01, 2012:

Thanks a lot for sharing you precious experience. This is really helpful. My son is 3 with pddnos and is not much verbal and can't sit at one place, loves to jump and move around all the time. His attention span is also very less. I recently noticed some new changes in him as in he has started playing with the saliva in his mouth, rolling gaggling and also spitting. I am worried this means his sensory has increased?..Earlier he was fine with chewy tube but now there is lot of dripping while he chew on chewy tube. Does anyone in the blog faced such situation with their child?

HawaiiHeart from Hawaii on March 15, 2012:

Yes, every child with PDD-NOS or any ASD is different, but we can always use advice from other parents. Thanks for sharing!

Tinay79 on March 03, 2012:

Thanks for sharing your story. We are going through the same struggles. I worry about her future wondering if she'll have to depend on us forever. Read her story on my blog at www.tinay79.com

Stephanie on December 25, 2011:

Thank you for your words

slavings25 on February 06, 2011:

my son is 9 now he was diagnosed in feb. 2010 we are still trying to gain control of him i have learned a lot from reading this thanks a lot

Willow Mattox (author) from Northern California on September 08, 2010:

@Jeanne610 - I have never had to buy any on my own because his teachers have always had the face/emotion flashcards at school. I would try a teacher's supply store, or an occupational therapy store/clinic. There are also a lot of resources for such items available through websites dedicated to autism.

DizNee Luver from Oregon on September 08, 2010:

Your article was like reading about my 9 yr old son. He doesn't seem to have the issues with sensory overload (or maybe he does, but doesn't react in a way we would expect)but the rest was like reading the daily going ons in our home. The doctor thinks it's possibly asperger's but he said it could be a number of other neurological things as well. We have twin 3 yr olds that are on the spectrum, so adding one more wouldn't be that big of a change in our home. He will be getting an educational review thru his IEP to see if he qualifies for extra help with the autism specialist....but a medical diagnosis won't be until next year sometime. The autism clinic here is booking out into February already.

Thank you for sharing this!!!

Jeanne610 on June 05, 2010:

My son will be 4 years this month, diagnosed with PDD-NOS, but is not considered verbal. He uses sign language and has about 30 words..

Can you let me know where you get those emotion flashcards??

Thanks for the post

George Poe from United Kingdom on April 17, 2010:

That's really useful content and good writing too.

hubby7 from Chicago on October 30, 2009:

Thanks for sharing. My son goes through the same struggles because he too was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. So far we have been successful in keeping him off meds. He is 10 years old now. I will look into niacin. Thanks!

NKC on September 19, 2009:

Thanks for sharing your story.