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Rett's Disorder Symptoms

(Also Known As: Retts Disorder Symptoms, Rett's Symptoms, Retts Symptoms, Autism Symptoms, Pervasive Development Disorder Symptoms, Mental Retardation Symptoms, Neurological Disorder Symptoms)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

What are the symptoms of Rett’s Disorder?

Symptoms of Rett's disorder are described in terms of four stages of a child's development.

STAGE 1: Early onset (6–18 months old) - The early symptoms of RS does not always manifest in this stage and sometimes are not always noticeable. Typically, the infant may not often make eye contact with family members and may not show much interest in toys. Everyone will have the notion that the infant is a good baby because of being overly calm and quiet most of the time. In spite of this, there may be noticeable hand-wringing movements and slowing of head growth.

STAGE 2: Rapid deterioration (1-4 years old) – The onset of symptoms in this stage may either be rapid and abrupt or gradual. The symptoms include:

  • child loses the ability to speak
  • child loses ability to make purposeful hand movements
  • normal hand movements are replaced by: Hand-to-mouth movements or hand-mouthing, hand-wringing or hand-clapping gestures. These movements are virtually incessant during wakeful hours but disappear during sleep.
  • noticeable episodes of breath holding and rapid shallow breathing or hyperventilation
  • trouble sleeping, and may become irritable
  • if able to walk, the child will start to look unsteady on her feet and may have periods of trembling or shaking
  • slow head growth is the most noticeable during this stage

STAGE 3: Plateau (2–10 years old) – The symptoms of this stage include:

  • motor problems and seizures
  • the child's behavior shows some improvement: less irritability and crying, may show greater interest in surroundings, improvement in attention span and communication skills

Many patients with RS remain stagnated in this stage for most of their lives.

STAGE 4: Late deterioration of motor skills (After 10 years old) – The symptoms in this stage include:

  • gradual loss of body mobility: inability to walk
  • cognitive or communication skills remain intact
  • decrease of repetitive hand movements
  • development of abnormal sideways curvature of the spine (scoliosis)
  • development of muscle rigidity
  • puberty begins at the same age as in most girls 6

Symptoms of Rett syndrome that are similar to autism:

  • screaming fits
  • panic attack
  • inconsolable crying
  • avoidance of eye contact
  • lack of social/emotional reciprocity
  • general lack of interest
  • markedly impaired use of nonverbal behaviors to regulate social interaction
  • loss of speech
  • balance and coordination problems, including losing the ability to walk in many cases

Symptoms of Rett syndrome that are also present in cerebral palsy (regression of the type seen in Rett syndrome would be unusual in cerebral palsy; this confusion should rarely be made):

  • possible short stature, and/or might be unusually proportioned because of difficulty walking or malnutrition due to difficulty swallowing.
  • hypotonia
  • delayed or absent ability to walk
  • gait/movement difficulties
  • ataxia
  • microcephaly in some - abnormally small head, poor head growth
  • some forms of spasticity
  • chorea - spasmodic movements of hand or facial muscles
  • dystonia
  • bruxism - grinding of teeth 7

Could You Have Rett's Disorder?

Rett's Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Asperger's Syndrome – autism, delayed development in motor, communication and social skills, cognitive impairment, clumsiness
Autism – brain development disorder, Asperger’s disorder, impaired social interaction, restricted and repetitive behavior
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder - late onset of delayed development, impaired social, motor and communication skills
Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS - delayed development in social, communication and motor skills