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Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

What is Childhood Disintegrative Disorder?

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). It is also known as Heller's Syndrome. PDDs are associated with autism and autism-like syndromes, and cover a spectrum of behavioural problems.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is a condition in which children will develop normally to approximately age 3 or 4, then, over a short period, will lose previously acquired motor, social and language skills. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder results in a persistent delay in these affected areas.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is an extremely rare disorder with a reported incidence of 2 per 100,000 children. It occurs only after a period of at least two years of normal development, under 10 years.

There is no known cause of Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Current research suggests that a combination of genetic susceptibility and possible prenatal or environmental stress may result in a higher than normal brain deposition of amyloid and disruption of synaptic transmission. However it must be noted that no clear pathophysiology has been proven.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder often occurs alongside other conditions including:

  • Tuberous Sclerosis
  • Lipid storage disease
  • Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis

However, it is not known whether these conditions play a role in triggering Childhood disintegrative Disorder, or whether they share the genetic and environmental risk factors. Some of these risk factors are listed below:

  • Environmental
    • Viral exposure - usually intrauterine transmission
    • Birth trauma
    • Exposure to toxins
    • Premature birth
    • Tetrogenicity
  • Genetic
    • Family history of Autism or Asperger Syndrome
    • Family history of Rolandic Epilepsy
    • Susceptibility to chromosomal breakdown or disruption
    • Associated with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Speech disorders and Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
  • Associated Disorders
    • Insomnia
    • Autoimmune Disorders
    • Allergies and Gastrointestinal Disorders

Children with Childhood Disintegrative Disorder tend to have the social, communicative and behavioural features similar to those with Autism. In addition to these traits, restricted, repetitive or stereotyped patterns of behaviour, activities and interests occur.

One major difference between Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Autism is that children with Childhood Disintegrative Disorder will lose previously acquired skills, Autism does not. Skills that may be lost include toilet training, previously able to perform complex skills including pedaling on a tricycle or the ability to draw shapes. Additional symptoms of Childhood Disintegrative Disorder include the onset of difficulty during the transition of waking from sleep; also motor function may become compromised leading to poor co-ordination and awkward gait.

The loss of previously acquired skills may be gradual; however, in general this usually occurs rapidly over a period of six-nine months. Symptoms may begin with unexplained changes in behaviour, e.g. anxiety, agitation, or unprovoked anger. Behavioural changes are normally followed by a loss in motor, social and communication skills. Children with Childhood Disintegrative Disorder often lose bowel or bladder control and reject social interaction. After a time the regression will stop, however, the child does not usually regain any of the lost skills.

To arrange an assessment with one of our therapists please contact us by emailing or calling 03300 886 693.

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