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Alternative Names Return to topDisintegrative psychosis; Heller syndrome
Definition Return to top
Childhood disintegrative disorder is a condition occurring in 3- and 4-year-olds who have developed normally to age 2. Over several months, a child with this disorder will deteriorate in intellectual, social, and language functioning from previously normal behavior.
Causes Return to top
The cause of childhood disintegrative disorder is unknown, but it has been linked to neurological problems. An affected child shows a loss of communication skills, has regression in nonverbal behaviors, and significant loss of previously acquired skills. The condition is similar to autistic disorder (autism).
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
This disorder must be differentiated from both childhood schizophrenia and pervasive developmental disorder (autism).
The most important signs of childhood disintegrative disorder are loss of developmental milestones. The child tends to have normal development through age 3 to 4, and then over a few months undergoes a gradual loss of previously established abilities (e.g., language, motor, or social skills). Generally, the diagnosis is made with a loss of functioning in at least two areas described above.
Treatment Return to top
Treatment is the same for autistic disorder (autism) because of the similarity in the two disorders.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Unfortunately, the prognosis for this disorder is limited. The loss of functioning will likely be permanent. However, to some degree, behaviors can be modified.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your provider if your child has any delays in development or starts to lose developmental abilities.Update Date: 6/13/2006 Updated by: Benjamin W. Van Voorhees, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.