DISORDERS OF SOCIAL COGNITION
Autism & Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)
All children with social cognition weakness have certain things in common – beginning with their difficulty in both sending and “reading” non-verbal social cues & signals. This often leads to strained relationships with peers or their being viewed by others as “odd”.
Both PDD and Autism are defined by a core triad of difficulties:
- Language delays,
- Social Cognition weaknesses, and
- Repetitive, “stereotyped”, ritualistic and/or self stimulatory behaviors.
This “triad” encompasses a WIDE RANGE of children however, as it says nothing about how severe any or all of the three weaknesses are, nor does it speak to underlying intelligence. Thus the spectrum of children in this diagnostic category ranges from severely mentally retarded, low functioning kids, to kids who are able to do a lot but who are “in their own world” and relatively out of touch with ours, to very bright even genius level kids who are very odd in the way they relate to others, behave, and communicate.
Much current thinking would do away with any distinction between the terms Autism and PDD, and basically treat them as synonyms which demand qualifying adjectives and narrative description of functional level. Older attitudes reserved the word “Autism” for the relatively low functioning and out-of-touch end of the spectrum, kids who fit a rather narrow “classic autism” picture, and used the PDD terminology for the higher functioning and less “classic” kids.