Rett’s Syndrome

This disorder mainly affects girls and is often mistaken for autism. It is a debilitating neurological condition which causes severe mobility and communication problems. This means that the sufferer requires 24 hour care and support for the rest of their life.

Many of the symptoms are similar to autism which often results in a mistaken diagnosis but there are others which are quite distinctive. These include very small hands and feet, small in stature, teeth grinding and repetitious hand movements, e.g. placing hands into the mouth.

Rett’s Syndrome is classed as a pervasive developmental disorder along with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Symptoms of Rett’s Syndrome

To reiterate: many of the symptoms are similar to autism and are characterised by a loss of motor and social skills by the age of 18. Up until this point the child look and behaves in a normal manner but once they reach the ages of 12 to 18 months their development stops and then starts to regress.

Basically they lose these skills.

The child loses the ability to move, talk or interact with other people. He or more commonly she has problems with balance and co-ordination and exhibits short, jerky movements due to tight muscles. Normal growth slows down.

She is prone to crying or screaming fits and is unable to maintain eye contact. She has no interest in her surroundings and is frightened by the world around her. The child is unable to communicate her distress verbally or non-verbally which leads to panic attacks.

Children with Rett’s Syndrome are often unable to walk due to poor co-ordination. They are prone to epilepsy and suffer from stomach upsets and constipation.

Many children develop severe physical and mental disabilities as a result. This includes curvature of the spine, problems with feeding and breathing and an inability to speak.

Treating Rhett’s Syndrome

There is no cure for this and any other autistic spectrum disorder. The aim is therefore, to manage the symptoms and enable the child to have as good a quality of life as possible.

This is an upsetting time for any parent of a child who has been diagnosed with this condition but there are a range of treatments and therapies which can help.

These therapies or interventions are based upon allowing children to function in the best way they can. They will require help with tasks such as feeding and dressing themselves which can be done with assistive devices.

These children are no different from ’normal’children in that they need to play and explore the world around them. Plus they require mental stimulation and the ability to learn and interact with others.

Again, there are techniques and tools to enable them to do this. These include adaptive technologies such as computers with special input devices, e.g. switches which enable the child to participate in schoolwork. These devices also allow them to communicate with others.

Other therapies include physical treatments such as hydrotherapy and physiotherapy which ease muscles stiffness and improve flexibility. Plus hydrotherapy has the added benefit of allowing the child to experience movement within the water which they are not able to do on land.

Many children live well into middle age and are able to have a satisfying quality of life.

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