Childhood Disintegrative Disorder


  • Author Mark Hutten
  • Published August 14, 2007
  • Word count 450

Children with Childhood disintegrative disorder (

CDD) appear to develop normally for the first two

years of life, but then lose skills in areas such

as language, play, and bowel control and manifest

impaired social interaction and communication

associated with restrictive, repetitive,

stereotyped behaviors.

Childhood disintegrative disorder and autism are

among several developmental disorders known as

pervasive developmental disorders or autism

spectrum disorders. Childhood disintegrative

disorder is also known as Heller's syndrome after

the Viennese educator, Theodor Heller, who first

described the condition. Childhood disintegrative

disorder is perhaps 10 times less common than

more strictly defined autism.

Childhood disintegrative disorder is a rare

serious disorder in which a child older than age

3 stops developing normally and regresses to a

much lower level of functioning, typically

following a serious illness, such as an infection

of the brain and nervous system. Childhood

disintegrative disorder cannot be specifically

treated or cured, and most children, particularly

those who are severely retarded, need lifelong


Social and emotional development regress,

resulting in impaired ability to relate with

others. Social interactions become compromised (e.

g., aggressiveness, tantrums, withdrawal from

peers), as does motor function, resulting in poor

coordination and possible awkwardness of gait.

Typically language, interest in the social

environment, and often toileting and self-care

abilities are lost, and there may be a general

loss of interest in the environment. Children

with CDD became uninterested in social

interaction, and various unusual self-stimulatory

behaviors became evident. Over several months, a

child with this disorder will deteriorate in

intellectual, social, and language functioning

from previously normal behavior.


· 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 start or sustain a conversation

Doctors sometimes confuse this rare disorder with

late-onset autism because both conditions involve

normal development followed by significant loss

of language, social, play and motor skills.

Behavioral changes are followed by loss of

communication, social, and motor skills.

Behavioral impairments include the repetitive,

stereotyped motions and rigid adherence to

routines that are characteristic of autism.

Behavior modification procedures may be quite

useful. Behavior therapy programs may be designed

to help your child learn or relearn language,

social and self-care skills.

Treatment is the same for autistic disorder (

autism) because of the similarity in the two

disorders. Treatment can be very difficult and

prolonged. Treatment of CDD involves both

behavior therapy and medications.

Specific treatment for CDD will be determined by

your child's physician based on your child's age,

overall health and medical history. Treatment

plans are individualized based on each child's

symptoms and the level of severity.

Mark Hutten, M.A., is a family therapist and

provides FREE online parent-coaching here: http://

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