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What is Childhood Disintegrative Disorder?

written by: KLeeBanks • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/23/2011

Every parent wants his or her child to be healthy and develop normally. When a perplexing condition such as childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) interferes with that normal development, it is obviously cause for concern. CDD, similar to autism, is one of many pervasive developmental disorders.

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    Introduction

    A child with childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) appears to develop normally until about the age of 2-10. At the point of change, the child’s development seems to “disintegrate" as he or she suffers a loss of acquired or learned language, play and social skills, and motor skills. While sharing similarities with autism, CDD occurs less frequently, though it may unfortunately result in mental retardation [1].

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    Causes of CDD

    This puzzling disorder has no known causes, although like autism, CDD may have genetic roots. Extensive examinations of children with CDD yield no conclusive evidence of medical or neurological causes. According to MayoClinic.com, CDD appears to demonstrate some common traits with various brain diseases and disorders, such as tuberous sclerosis, lipid storage diseases, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis [2]. While environmental factors or autoimmune deficiencies may also contribute to CDD, researchers must conduct ongoing studies that are more comprehensive and conclusive; this is a difficult task, due to the rare occurrences of this disorder [3].

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    Symptoms of CDD

    Determine if your child meets normal developmental milestones. 

    Determine if your child meets normal developmental milestones.

    [Image Permission: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net].

    The varied symptoms of CDD show up after a child has followed a normal developmental track for his or her first 2 to 4 years. With no apparent precipitating cause, a child will demonstrate significant losses in two major areas: acquired or learned skills, and normal functions. MayoClinic.com provides this list of primary symptoms in those two areas [4]:

    1. Child experiences loss in acquired or learned skills:
        • Expressive and receptive language
        • Social, self-care skills, play, and motor skills
        • Bowel and bladder control

        2. Child experiences loss of, or impaired, normal functions:

          • Socialization – inability to: form friendships, demonstrate appropriate social skills or emotions, and comprehend nonverbal cues.
          • Communication – demonstrates: delayed or no speech, inability to converse with peers, repetitive speech (known as echolalia), and impaired creative play.
          • Repetitive, stereotypical behaviors – becomes preoccupied with certain objects or activities, demonstrates difficulty making transitions in routine, and engages in either repetitive motions or becomes catatonic.
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          Treatment Plans for CDD

          While each child is an individual and develops at his or her own pace, the loss of significant developmental milestones is a warning sign for parents to heed. If parents observe any of the previous list of symptoms occurring in their child, it is imperative to contact your child’s doctor, and discuss a diagnosis and treatment plan for your child as soon as possible.

          Since there is no known cure available for CDD, the prognosis for children diagnosed with CDD is even less hopeful than for autistic children. Sadly, children with CDD often require residential or long-term care in a special facility, due to severe and permanent disabilities that eventually accompany CDD. [5]

          Treatment plans, therefore, consist of controlling and modifying symptoms and behavior, rather than curing the disorder. The main types of treatment options include the following:

          • Behavior therapy – variations of behavior therapy may help your child learn or relearn lost skills in the areas of speech and language, social skills, and self-care skills; typically this includes reinforcement measures that encourage positive behavior and discourage negative behavior [6].
          • Medications – cannot cure CDD or eliminate behaviors; medications for depression or anxiety, or antipsychotic medications may control aggressive or repetitive behavior, while anticonvulsant drugs may help if a child experiences epileptic seizures [7].
          • Alternative/complementary therapy – not intended to replace the previous treatments, but rather complement them; may include special diets and nutritional supplements, art and music therapy, and sensory integration [8].
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          Conclusion and Citations

          Childhood disintegrative disorder is a rare, debilitating condition that first affects children between the ages of 2 to 4 years old. CDD results in disintegration or loss of previously acquired or learned skills, as well as normal functions, such as bladder and bowel control. Unfortunately, medical professionals and researchers have yet to determine exact causes of childhood disintegrative disorder. While the prognosis for children with CDD is bleak, due to the severe disabilities that result, treatment plans including medications and behavior therapy can help relieve and modify symptoms and behaviors. Parents of children diagnosed with CDD should seek professional advice about coping skills and participate in support groups with other parents who have children with developmental disabilities [9].

          Citations

          [1]MayoClinic.com. Childhood disintegrative disorder – Definition. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-disintegrative-disorder/DS00801

          [2][3]MayoClinic.com. Childhood disintegrative disorder – Causes. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-disintegrative-disorder/DS00801/DSECTION=causes

          [4]MayoClinic.com. Childhood disintegrative disorder – Symptoms. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-disintegrative-disorder/DS00801/DSECTION=symptoms

          [5][6][7]MayoClinic.com. Childhood disintegrative disorderTreatments and drugs. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-disintegrative-disorder/DS00801/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

          [8]MayoClinic.com. Childhood disintegrative disorder Alternative medicine. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-disintegrative-disorder/DS00801/DSECTION=alternative-medicine

          [9]MayoClinic.com. Childhood disintegrative disorderCoping and support. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-disintegrative-disorder/DS00801/DSECTION=coping-and-support