Developmental phenotype in Phelan-McDermid (22q13.3 deletion) syndrome: A systematic and prospective study in 34 children

Renée J Zwanenburg, Selma A J Ruiter, Edwin R van den Heuvel, Boudien C T Flapper, Conny M A Van Ravenswaaij-Arts

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Background: Phelan- McDermid syndrome (PMS) or 22q13.3 deletion syndrome is characterized by global developmental delay, cognitive deficits, and behaviour in the autism spectrum. Knowledge about developmental and behavioural characteristics of this rare chromosomal disorder is still limited despite a rapid growing number of diagnoses. Our aim was to study a new and relatively large cohort to further characterize the developmental phenotype of children with PMS.

Methods: We performed a descriptive study of children with a 22q13.3 deletion including SHANK3, aged 8 to 178 months, who were systematically (n = 34) and longitudinally (n = 29) assessed with standardized instruments: Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, third edition; Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, third edition; and Vineland Screener for Social and Adaptive Behavior.

Results: Maximal developmental functioning ranged from 34 to 52 months depending on the developmental domain. In general, children performed poorest in the domain of language and best on the domain of motor (young children) or cognitive development (older children). At the individual level, 25 % scored better for receptive and 18 % for expressive language, whereas 22 % scored better for fine and 33 % for gross motor function. Developmental quotients were higher in younger children and decreased with age for all developmental domains, with 38 % of the children showing no improvement of cognitive developmental functioning. Almost all children (33/34) had significant deficits in adaptive behaviour. Children with very small deletions, covering only the SHANK3, ACR, and RABL2B genes, had a more favourable developmental phenotype.

Conclusions: Cognitive, motor, and especially language development were significantly impaired in all children with PMS but also highly variable and unpredictable. In addition, deficits in adaptive behaviour further hampered their cognitive development. Therefore, cognitive and behavioural characteristics should be evaluated and followed in each child with PMS to adapt supportive and therapeutic strategies to individual needs. Further research evaluating the relationship between deletion characteristics and the developmental phenotype is warranted to improve counselling of parents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurodevelopmental disorders
Publication statusPublished - 26-Apr-2016


  • Phelan-McDermid syndrome
  • 22q13 deletion syndrome
  • SHANK3
  • Intellectual disability
  • Autism
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

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