Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) is a rare disorder in which a child develops normally until about age 3 or 4 and then suddenly starts to show symptoms of autism. The child starts to lose the ability to move, talk, and understand.
CDD is also known as Heller's syndrome. It may also be called a pervasive developmental disorder, because a child who has it does not develop normally in several ways.
Boys are more likely than girls to have CDD.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known. Many things may play a role, such as:
A child with CDD is also more likely to have food allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or epilepsy. How these are related is not yet known.
At about age 3 or 4, you may notice that something is different about your child, such as:
Once skills are lost, they are not usually regained.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's development at each well child visit. Tell your provider about any concerns you have and any behavior that seems unusual, such as losing skills that your child used to be able to do. As a parent or caregiver, you are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in your child. Do not ignore problems, thinking that your child is just a little slow and will "catch up." Early treatment helps reduce symptoms. It increases your child's ability to grow and learn new skills.
Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child and ask about your child's symptoms and your family history of any medical and mental problems. Your child may have tests such as:
Because it can be inherited, your healthcare provider may want to screen your other children for symptoms.
If your healthcare provider thinks your child may have CCD, he or she will refer you to specialists such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, or neurologist. They can do more testing and advise you about treatment. Your school district may also provide testing services for your child.
There is no one best treatment for all children with CDD. Treatment focuses on educational and behavioral therapy.
Usually children are placed in public schools and the school district provides all needed services. These will include working with a speech therapist, occupational therapist, school psychologist, social worker, school nurse, or aide. You may want to visit public schools in your area to see the type of program they offer to special needs children.
A team of professionals will help evaluate your child and put a plan together. You may also ask your healthcare provider to review the plan. Ask and find out all the services that may be available for your child.
Sometimes medicine can help. Medicine can improve behaviors that may cause self-injury or interfere with school or social ability. These medicines must be prescribed by a healthcare provider experienced with their use in children with CDD.