Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

This is part of the autistic spectrum but differs from other types of autism due to the fact that there is a more noticeable loss of social skills. This rare compared to the other disorders.

Another name for this condition is Heller’s Syndrome.

Children with this disorder develop at the normal rate as other children but this all changes once they reach the age of 3 to 4 years old.

They lose their motor, social and communication skills, e.g. speech which may be due to problems with the brain and/or nervous system. As a result of this they display a range of behaviour which is very similar to autism.

Symptoms of childhood disintegrative disorder

Examples of this behaviour include:

  • Problems with communicating, e.g. talking, with adults and children
  • Difficulty with body language and other non-verbal communication.
  • Unable to start or stop a conversation
  • Poor/no social skills
  • Lack of co-ordination/motor skills

Other physical symptoms include bladder and bowel problems. An example of this is a child with this disorder suddenly having ’accidents’ when they had previously been toilet trained.

If you are the parent of a child with this condition then you will also notice that your child has no interest in play: either with other children or by themselves.

Children develop at different rates to each other but if your child shows signs of having lost their ability to talk, walk, play or feed themselves then it may indicate this or a similar autism spectrum disorder.

Many children go on to develop a severe form of autism by the time they reach their 10th birthday.

Treating childhood disintegrative disorder

The aim is to slow down the progression of this disorder and look at ways of coping with this condition. There is no cure for childhood disintegrative disorder but there are methods for slowing down or reducing the symptoms which include medication and behavioural ’interventions’.

The prognosis is not as good for children with this disorder compared to other types of autism as they tend to have severely impaired motor, cognitive and social skills.

Children affected by this disorder require specialist care on a daily basis for the rest of their lives.

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