We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Childhood Disintegrative Disorder?

By R.M. Brennan
Updated Feb 19, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Childhood disintegrative disorder, also referred to as CDD and Heller's syndrome, is a rare condition in children who develop normally, and then, at around the age of three, suffer from a dramatic loss of previously attained skills, including language, self-care, and social skills. The loss of developmental skills may occur in a short period time, such as days or weeks, or the child may lose these skills over a longer time period, such as months. Similar to autism, and actually identified many years before autism, CDD is part of the spectrum of autism disorders.

Sometimes confused with, and misdiagnosed as, autism, childhood disintegrative disorder is a much more rare disease. It is found more frequently in males than in females. The diagnosis of autism, characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior, is usually identified earlier than CDD. Although childhood disintegrative disorder is one of several disorders on the autistic spectrum, children with this disorder typically experience a much more profound loss of skills and are at a greater risk of mental retardation.

The cause of childhood disintegrative disorder is unknown, but experts suspect there is some genetic basis for it. Current research suggests that genetic susceptibility combined with prenatal or environmental stress may be factors. Failed or flawed autoimmune responses, and neurological problems, are also suspected.

If a child experiences any gradual or sudden loss of developmental milestones, medical attention should be sought immediately. To be diagnosed with childhood disintigrative disorder, a child usually must show loss or regression in at least two of the following areas: language understanding, spoken language, social or self-help skills, the ability to sustain a conversation, peer play, motor skills, and previously established bowel or bladder control. When presented with these symptoms, the primary physician should arrange a consultation to exclude any neurologic conditions which may be treatable.

Skills lost to childhood disintegrative disorder may be permanently lost. Some of a child's behaviors, however, can be modified with the help of therapeutic intervention in conjunction with family and caregiver support. Various classes of medication, including antipsychotics, stimulants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be used to treat some behavioral and mood problems in children with this disorder. Most importantly, treatment to halt behavioral deterioration should begin as soon as possible to help ensure the best communication, self-help, social, and general functioning skills possible.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.