Rett syndrome (RTT) is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder. Apparently normal at birth, girls with RTT undergo developmental regression and acquire a neurological and behavioural phenotype that has been used to define clinical diagnostic criteria for the disorder. Recently mutations in the methyl-CpG binding protein 2 gene (MECP2), located on Xq28 have been identified in females with RTT. We report a girl whose clinical course was complicated by congenital abnormalities of the respiratory tract and gastrointestinal system. In addition neurological abnormalities were evident in the newborn period. By the age of 3 years she had developed a phenotype very suggestive of RTT, but had not demonstrated deceleration of head growth and the development of expressive language was prevented by the presence of the tracheostomy. The clinical impression of RTT was confirmed by the recent finding of a mutation in the MECP2 gene. This case report highlights the importance of considering the clinical diagnosis of RTT even in the presence of other conditions and emphasises that girls with RTT may not be normal from birth.