Quick overview: childhood disintegrative disorder


The series of “quick overview” blog posts are short and easy to understand explanations of subjects written about on this blog and are published for reference, not intended necessarily as independent reading material. These are fact-focused and lack personal opinions and information. And are published to reduce the linking to third party sources, as at times there may be disagreement how trustworthy these sources are.

Understanding childhood disintegrative disorder

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), also known as Heller’s Syndrome, is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that affects young children. The disorder was first described by Austrian psychologist Theodor Heller in 1908.

CDD is a type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that typically develops after two years of age. The child’s development appears to be normal until around the age of two, after which the child loses previously acquired skills and abilities, such as language, social skills, and motor skills. This regression is often rapid and can occur over a period of weeks or months.


The symptoms of CDD can vary widely from one child to another, but common signs include:

  1. Loss of language and communication skills
  2. Loss of social skills, including a lack of interest in social interaction
  3. Loss of motor skills, including problems with coordination and balance
  4. Behavioral changes, including aggression, irritability, and hyperactivity
  5. Loss of bladder or bowel control
  6. Seizures

The symptoms of CDD typically appear after a period of normal development, usually between the ages of 4 and 10 years. The child may begin to show signs of developmental delay or regression, including loss of previously acquired language and social skills, such as eye contact, pointing, and responding to their name. Motor skills may also be affected, with the child experiencing difficulty with movements such as walking or crawling.

Other symptoms of CDD may include repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping or rocking, as well as a loss of interest in play or social interaction. In severe cases, the child may become non-verbal and may exhibit behavior problems, such as aggression or self-injury.


The exact cause of CDD is not known, but it is believed to be related to abnormalities in the brain, particularly in the areas responsible for language and social functioning. Some studies suggest that CDD may be a subtype of autism spectrum disorder, while others suggest that it is a separate condition altogether.


Diagnosing CDD can be challenging, as the symptoms are similar to other developmental disorders, such as autism and Rett syndrome. A diagnosis is typically made based on a thorough evaluation of the child’s medical history, developmental milestones, and behavior.


There is no cure for CDD, and treatment typically focuses on managing symptoms and helping the child cope with the disorder. Treatment options may include medications to control seizures or behavioral problems, speech and language therapy to help the child communicate, and occupational therapy to help the child develop motor skills.


The prognosis for children with CDD varies depending on the severity of their symptoms. In some cases, children may be able to regain some of their lost skills and may be able to function at a higher level with appropriate treatment. In other cases, the disorder may progress to the point where the child requires full-time care.


In conclusion, childhood disintegrative disorder is a rare and complex developmental disorder that can be difficult to diagnose and manage. It is important for parents and caregivers to seek professional help if they notice any signs or symptoms of the disorder in their child. With appropriate treatment and support, children with CDD can learn to manage their symptoms and achieve their full potential.

If you suspect that your child may have CDD, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional to discuss the best options for diagnosis and treatment.

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