Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder occurring mostly in females in which the child exhibits reduced muscle tone, autistic-like behaviors, stereotyped hand movements consisting of wringing and waving. It is a rare disorder that affects about 1 out of 10,000 children and is the most genetic causes of severe intellectual disability in females. Due to similarities to autism and cerebral palsy, it is often misdiagnosed.
Signs similar to autism include outburst, eye contact avoidance, lack of social reciprocity, sensory issues and loss of speech. Signs of Rett syndrome similar to cerebral palsy include short stature, difficulty with walking, gait movement difficulties and delayed ability to walk.
Typically, children born with Rett syndrome develop normally until the age of 6 and 18 months and reach typical development milestones including eye contact, rolling over and grasping objects. As children grow, motor development begins to slow such as walking and muscle movement. The first signs is usually the loss of muscle tone where the child’s arms and legs appear “floppy.”
According to NINDS, Asperger syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized be an impairment in language and communication skills and repetitive behavior with typically an IQ of 70 and above.
A preference for playing alone or with older children or adults
May be socially awkward
May not understand conventional social rules
Limited eye contact
May not understand the use of gestures or sarcasm
Obsessive preoccupation with objects
Normal physical growth and development
Need for sameness.
1.5:1 to 16:1 per 1,000
Males more likely to have Asperger’s syndrome than females
Females with Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning may be underdiagnosed
All racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups are impacted.
Leo Kanner, an Austrian-American psychiatrist in 1943 published a paper entitled, Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact, which described 11 children who were highly intelligent but displayed an ‘obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.’ He later named the condition- “early infantile autism.”
Hans Asperger’s, a Viennese child psychologist published the first definition of Asperger’s syndrome in 1944. He noted in four boys, a pattern f behavior and abilities including a lack of empathy, little ability to form friendships and clumsy movement.
Online Community Support
Wrong Planet– A web community designed for individuals (and parents/professionals) with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, PDD and other neurological differences. The website provides a discussion forum, articles, how-to-guides and therapy services.
Teaching Strategies – The following articles are for teachers and service providers on techniques and strategies when teaching or providing services to a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Asperger/Autism Network (AANE). Founded in 1996 by a small group of concerned parents and professionals. AANE works with individuals, families and professionals and provides information, education, community support and advocacy.