Rare Speech Disorder May Affect Two-Thirds of Kids With Autism

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Nearly two-thirds of children with autism may suffer from a rare speech disorder characterized by difficulty coordinating the use of their tongue, lips, mouth and jaw to produce speech.

The condition, known as apraxia, is typically found in one or two out of 1,000 children. However, a new study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics has found that as much as 64% of children with autism may suffer from the speech disorder.

Because of apraxia, “each time they say the same word, it comes out differently, and even their parents have difficulty understanding them,” Cheryl Tierney, MD, MPH, a behavior and developmental pediatrician at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, told the website Disability Scoop.

Tierney and colleagues examined 30 children between the ages of 15 months to 5 years old who were referred for examination over concerns about speech, language or autism. Nearly two out of three children with an initial diagnosis of autism had apraxia. And of those kids who were first identified as having apraxia, 36.8% were also determined to have autism.

The researchers said the results are important because early intervention can treat both autism and apraxia, though different methods are used to treat each condition, so an accurate diagnosis is essential.

Rare Speech Disorder May Affect Two-Thirds of Kids With Autism
Apraxia, which is characterized by difficulty in coordinating the tongue, lips and mouth to make speech, appears to be common in autism.

New research suggests that an otherwise rare speech disorder may affect nearly two-thirds of kids with autism, a finding that's prompting calls for greater screening.

The condition called apraxia is estimated to affect just one or two out of every 1,000 children, but a study finds that 64% of children with autism may also have the speech disorder.

Researchers looked at a group of 30 kids ages 15 months to 5 years who were referred for evaluations due to concerns about speech, language or autism. Of the children initially diagnosed with autism, nearly 2 out of 3 also had apraxia, the study found. Meanwhile, among those first flagged with apraxia, 36.8% were also found to have autism.

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