Diseases & Conditions
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
In childhood disintegrative disorder, an apparently normal child begins to act younger (regress) after age 3.
In most children, physical and mental development occur in spurts. It is common for children to take a step backward; for example, a toilet-trained child occasionally wets himself. Childhood disintegrative disorder, however, is a rare serious disorder in which a child older than age 3 stops developing normally and regresses to a much lower level of functioning, typically following a serious illness, such as an infection of the brain and nervous system.
The typical child with childhood disintegrative disorder develops normally until age 3 or 4, learning speech, becoming toilet trained, and displaying appropriate social behavior. Then, after a period of a few weeks or months during which time the child is irritable and moody, the child undergoes obvious regression. He may lose previously acquired language, motor, or social skills, and he may no longer have control over his bladder or bowels. In addition, the child develops difficulties in social interaction and begins performing repetitive behaviors similar to those that occur in children with autism. Quite often the child gradually deteriorates to a severely retarded level. A doctor makes the diagnosis based on the symptoms and searches for an underlying disorder.
Childhood disintegrative disorder cannot be specifically treated or cured, and most children, particularly those who are severely retarded, need lifelong care.
Last full review/revision February 2003
Source: The Merck Manual Home Edition