Pervasive Developmental Disorders
Another form of behavioral disorder is pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDD includes impairment in development of social interactions and verbal and nonverbal communication skills. The most severe forms of PDD are neuroses and psychoses, including schizophrenia. Although children are rarely classified using these terms, neuroses and psychoses infrequently are used to describe preschool children.
Psychologists classify autism as a form of behavioral disorder and consider it to be similar to psychoses. Autism is classified under its own category by the U.S. Department of Education (1995) and has been classified under "other health impairments" in the past.
Children classified with a neurosis appear to have inner conflicts and therefore often have difficulty getting along with other people. These children frequently appear anxious. Their anxieties may be exhibited in the form of a phobia, which is an irrational, persistent, and overwhelming fear.
Children with phobias fear objects or situations that present no actual danger, or if there is some danger, it is magnified out of proportion. There are many different phobias, including fear of high places, water, animals, being alone, thunder, or darkness. It is not unusual for children to have mild fears, but phobias are unusual and are rarely used to classify children before school age (Quay & Werry, 1986).
Neurotic children tend to react to stressful situations with more than a typical amount of sadness and dejection. The child may appear to be dejected, discouraged, and sad for relatively long periods of time. Other forms of neurosis include compulsive or obsessive behavior. These reactions include persistent intrusions of unwanted thoughts, urges, or actions the child is unable to stop. Children are often aware of these thoughts but cannot stop them from occurring. These children appear to be forced to think about something they do not want to think about, such as a fire that nearly got out of control. They carry out behavior they do not really want to do such as constantly checking for smoke or saying they smell smoke (Haring, 1987).
Preschool-aged children are also rarely classified as having a psychotic disorder. Psychotic disorders include loss of contact with reality. Children with a psychotic disorder cannot handle the typical daily demands of childhood. Most children who are psychotic are labeled schizophrenic. These children misinterpret reality and sometimes have delusions (false, fixed ideas) or hallucinations (false sensory impressions). They will withdraw, regress to use immature behavior, or act in some unusual way (Newcomer, 1993).
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