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Childhood disintegrative disorder
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Childhood disintegrative disorder

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Disintegrative psychosis; Heller syndrome

Childhood disintegrative disorder is a condition in which children develop normally through age 3 or 4. Then, over a few months, children lose language, motor, social, and other skills that they already learned.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • Causes

    The cause of childhood disintegrative disorder is unknown, but it has been linked to brain and nervous system problems. A child who is affected loses:

    • Communication skills
    • Nonverbal behaviors
    • Skills they had already learned

    The condition is similar to autistic disorder (autism).

  • Symptoms

    • Delay or lack of spoken language
    • Impairment in nonverbal behaviors
    • Inability to start or maintain a conversation
    • Lack of play
    • Loss of bowel and bladder control
    • Loss of language or communication skills
    • Loss of motor skills
    • Loss of social skills
    • Problems forming relationships with other children and family members
  • Exams and Tests

    The health care provider will determine whether the child has this disorder, or a similar condition such as childhood schizophrenia or pervasive developmental disorder (autism).

    The most important sign of childhood disintegrative disorder is the loss of developmental milestones. Generally, the diagnosis is made if the child has lost function in at least two areas of development.

  • Treatment

    Treatment is the same as for autistic disorder (autism) because the two disorders are similar.

    One experimental treatment uses steroid medications to slow the progression of the condition.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)

    The outlook for this disorder is poor. Most children with the condition have an impairment similar to that of children with severe autism by age 10.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your provider if your child has any delays in development or starts to lose developmental abilities.

Related Information

  Autism spectrum di...    

References

Raviola G, Gosselin GJ, Walter HJ, DeMaso DR. Pervasive developmental disorders and childhood psychosis. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 28.

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Review Date: 6/12/2012  

Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine.

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