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Fact Sheet: Autism & Pervasive Developmental Disorders


Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) are developmental disabilities that share many characteristics. Usually evident by age three, autism and PDD are neurological disorders that affect an individuals ability to communicate, understand language, play, and relate to others.


Individuals with autism or PDD vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some individuals do not speak; others have limited language that often includes repeated phrases or conversations. People with more advanced language skills tend to focus on a small range of topics and have difficulty with abstract concepts. Repetitive activities, a limited range of interests, and impaired social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information (i.e., loud noises, lights, certain textures of food or fabrics) are also common. Other characteristics are as follows:

  • The primary disabilities are in behavior, communication, and social interactions
  • Major challenges with verbal and nonverbal communication skills
  • Difficulties in relating to people, objects and events; can appear aloof, uninterested, and lacking in concentration
  • Repetitive behavior such as hand flapping, touching, twiddling of fingers, and rocking
  • A desire for familiar things and set routines
  • Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings

Vocational Implications

  • When teaching someone with autism, the emphasis needs to be on learning ways to communicate, as well as structuring the environment so that it is consistent and predictable
  • Individuals with autism or PDD learn better, and are usually less confused, when information is presented visually as well as verbally.


Autism National Committee

635 Ardmore Avenue
Ardmore, PA 19003
Web site:
A national think tank advancing research, understanding, and positive relationship and communication-based approaches to assisting children and adults with autism.

Autism Society of America

7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 300
Bethesda, MD 20814
Voice: (301) 657-0881; (800) 328-8476 x150
Fax: (301) 657-0869
Web site:
Provides basic information and referral, as well as updates on autism research and advocacy efforts.

Indiana Institute on Disability and Community
Indiana Resource Center for Autism

Indiana University
2853 East 10th Street
Bloomington, IN 47408-2601
Voice: (812) 855-6508
TTY: (812) 855-9396
Fax: (812) 855-9630
Web site:
Provides training, technical assistance, and information on meeting the needs of individuals with autism.