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Primarily affecting females, Rett syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder (or autism spectrum disorder). Its symptoms begin after a period of normal development that lasts between 6 and 18 months, after which the child's mental and social development regresses. Scientists have discovered that a mutation in the sequence of a single gene can cause Rett syndrome. This discovery may also lead to methods of screening for the disorder.
What Is Rett Syndrome?Rett syndrome is a relatively rare condition that almost exclusively affects females. It occurs in one out of every 10,000 to 15,000 people.
Rett syndrome is part of a category of disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), which are more commonly known as autism spectrum disorders. All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of:
- Impairment in communication skills and social interactions
- Restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
Symptoms of Rett Syndrome
People who develop Rett syndrome initially go through a period of normal development that lasts between 6 and 18 months. After that, autism-like symptoms begin to appear. The little girl's mental and social development regresses -- she no longer responds to her parents and pulls away from any social contact. If she has been talking, she stops; she cannot control her feet; she wrings her hands. Some of the problems associated with Rett syndrome can be treated. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help with problems of coordination, movement, and speech.