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Rett Syndrome and Asperger's in Girls

“What causes Rett syndrome, and is it a fairly common disorder that occurs alongside Asperger syndrome? Also, what are the treatment options?"

Rett syndrome is relatively rare, affecting almost exclusively females, one out of 10,000 to 15,000. After a period of normal development (usually between 6 and 18 months), autism-like symptoms begin to appear. The little girl's mental and social development regresses. For example, she no longer responds to her mom or dad and pulls away from any social contact. If she has been talking, she stops. She can’t control her feet, and 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.

Scientists sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have discovered that a mutation in the sequence of a single gene can cause Rett syndrome. This discovery may help doctors slow or stop the progress of the syndrome. It may also lead to methods of screening for Rett syndrome, thus enabling doctors to start treating these kids much sooner, and improving the quality of life these kids experience.

Symptoms of Rett syndrome include:
  • child may have long fits of laughter
  • child may become tense and irritable as she gets older
  • child may cry or scream for long periods of time
  • no language skills
  • problems with hand movements
  • problems with muscles and coordination
  • slowed growth
  • symptoms usually don’t improve over time
  • trouble with breathing

The best options available to treat Rett syndrome include:
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Good nutrition
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy 
  • Speech therapy
  • Standard medical care and medication
  • Supportive services

Also, medication can treat some of the problems with movement and help control seizures.

Rett syndrome is a progressive, neurodevelopmental Autism Spectrum Disorder. Asperger's is also an Autism Spectrum Disorder related to development. While Rett syndrome symptoms usually center around the inability to perform motor functions, Asperger's symptoms have more to do with social skills deficits, as well as language and communication impairment. 

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