Pervasive Developmental Delay. Psychiatrists will tell you that it means delayed development in a broad range of skills and aptitudes. It means delayed maturity. They might even break out the “mental age” label.
For me, pervasive developmental delay means being lonely a lot. It means being the last of your peers to give up children’s toys for music and fashion. It means watching your friends getting ready for college and careers–getting boring–while you still want to play games and have fun.
And so you make friends, often a bit younger than you, and watch as they start acting boring and old and leave you behind. This happens several times. It happens a little slower each time, but it happens again and again.
The worst was at the end of high school and getting ready for college. My friends were choosing the best schools to go to and planning the rest of their lives. I still wanted to play D&D all summer. After all, college wasn’t until after summer. But they had matured, grown up, and they had more important things on their minds than games and entertainment. At the time I didn’t understand this, and I felt abandoned by the best, maybe only friends I’d ever had. It wasn’t until my own diagnosis many years later that I realized it wasn’t they who left me behind; it was I who didn’t keep up with them.
The same thing happened with my cousin, who was like a brother to me. His interest shifted from playing pretend games to wargames with his other friends, to girls, and jobs, and school. Leaving me years behind him. I still miss him.
It happens again when everyone you know starts having children. Again you’re left out, left behind. What is there for you to talk about when everyone is discussing babies and preschools.
That’s what pervasive developmental delay has meant in my life. But for bonus points, it also means having a hard time dealing with responsibilities. Having parents telling you that you aren’t ready for real life, and maybe even being right.
I’ve heard and read that later in life, we get to catch up. That our peers stop maturing, and the differences between us lessen in that regard. But I wonder, do they really lesson? Do we really catch up, or do we just get better at hiding it.
The best I can say is that I’m still friends with my college friends. They outgrew me too, but not so far or so fast as previous sets of friends. I may be the quirky one, the silly one, but we still hang out and we’re still friends. So maybe we do catch up later on in life. Or maybe I just got lucky in my friends.
Can you prepare your child for this phenomenon? I don’t know. Perhaps they can benefit from finding aspie peers to befriend. They’re easier to find these days, it seems.