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Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

A condition occurring in 3 to 4 year olds which is characterized by a deterioration, over several months of intellectual, social, and language functioning. Also known as; disintegrative psychosis or Heller's syndrome. This rather rare condition was described many years before autism but has only recently been 'officially' recognized. With CDD children develop a condition which resembles autism but only after a relatively prolonged period of clearly normal development. This condition apparently differs from autism in the pattern of onset, course, and outcome. Although apparently rare the condition probably has frequently been incorrectly diagnosed. The following is prominent with the condition:

Loss of social skills.

Loss of bowel and bladder control.

Loss of expressive or receptive language.

Loss of motor skills.

Lack of play.

Failure to develop peer relationships.

Impairment in nonverbal behaviors.

Delay or lack of spoken language.

Inability to initiate or sustain a conversation.

Associated Features:

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is usually associated with severe mental retardation. But this may not always be present. There also appears be an increased frequency of EEG abnormalities and seizure disorder.

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar or even the same symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his/her diagnostic attempt has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

The etiology is unknown but several lines of evidence suggest that it arises as a result of some form of central nervous system pathology. More boys than girls appear to be affected. Childhood disintegrative disorder is perhaps 10 times less common than more strictly defined autism.


Treatment is the same for autistic disorder (autism) because of the similarity in the two disorders. Treatment is can be very difficult and prolonged. Parents, teachers, and therapists work together in coordinated efforts to encourage social adjustment and speech development in the child. Positive reinforcement techniques for appropriate behavior or language responses have been successful in promoting skills. Family members may also need counseling because they often feel guilty or inadequate.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Intensive behavior modification programmes such as; Behavior Analysis and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

related books

disintegrative disoder

Recommended Book - Children with Starving Brains: A Medical Treatment Guide for Autism Spectrum Disorder

This book is not specifically on Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

UK Support Groups
  The National Autistic Society (Autism UK)

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Tel: 020 7833 2299
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Email: nas@nas.org.uk

Web: http://www.autism.org.uk/
  299.10 Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
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