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Childhood Disintegrative Disorder


Updated January 24, 2014

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Definition: Under the DSM IV, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) was a very rare type of autism, striking only about 2 in 100,000 children. Unlike other autism spectrum disorders, CDD typically develops after the age of three. The devastating disorder strikes children, usually boys, who have developed typically until a sudden and catastrophic loss of cognitive, social and physical skills. According to the NIH:

"The loss of such skills as vocabulary are more dramatic in CDD than they are in classical autism. The diagnosis requires extensive and pronounced losses involving motor, language, and social skills. CDD is also accompanied by loss of bowel and bladder control and oftentimes seizures and a very low IQ."

As with other pervasive developmental disorders, the causes of CDD are poorly understood.

It is important to note that CDD is not the same as "regressive autism." Regressive autism is a recognized phenomenon, but not a diagnosis. In regressive autism, children do lose skills, but not as quickly or as globally as in the case of CDD. In addition, CDD can be distinguished from regressive autism because of its later onset.


Interview with Dr. Ann Wagner, Ph.D. Chief, Neurobehavioral Mechanisms, Autism Interventions Research Program, Division of Services and Interventions Research, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. September, 2010.

MedlinePlus. Factsheet on Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental Disorders). Fombonne, E. Prevalence of childhood disintegrative disorder. Autism, 2002; 6(2): 149-157.

Also Known As: Disintegrative psychosis; Heller syndrome
Children with Childhood Disintegrative Disorder receive the same treatments as those with other autism spectrum disorders.
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