Beginning between 3 months and 3 years of age, most children with Rett syndrome start to show some of the following symptoms:
Loss of purposeful hand movements— They lose the ability to do things with their hands, such as grasping with fingers, reaching for things, or touching things on purpose.
Loss of speech—Initially, they may stop saying words or phrases that they once said; later, they may make sounds, but do not say any purposeful words.
Balance and coordination problems—These problems may start out as clumsiness and trouble walking. About 60 percent8 of those with Rett syndrome are still able to walk later in life; others may become unable to sit up or walk or may become immobile.
Stereotypic movements—One of the unique features of Rett syndrome is stereotypic hand movements—such as hand wringing—that can intensify and become almost continuous.
Breathing problems—These problems may include hyperventilation and breath holding or apnea. These problems occur only while the person with Rett syndrome is awake, not during sleep.
Anxiety and social-behavioral problems— These issues can range from not being comfortable in new places or situations, such as a mall, to autistic-like features, such as lack of eye contact.
Intellectual disability/mental retardation— Intellectual disability is often significant. In fact, Rett syndrome is one of the leading causes of intellectual disability and autism in females.
During the last several years, researchers have described a broader set of features for Rett syndrome. Some people may be more or less affected by symptoms of Rett syndrome than others. Some people with Rett syndrome may still be able to say single words, while others are never able to talk. Some people with Rett syndrome are not able to sit up on their own and stay upright, while others have no problems with sitting.
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