Apraxia and Autism Often Go Hand in Hand

autism and apraxia

Researchers have been examining the relationship between apraxia, a rare neurological speech disorder, and autism. In a three-year study, 64% of children with autism also had apraxia.

Cheryl Tierney, an associate professor of pediatrics at Penn State, says that children with apraxia have a hard time coordinating the movements of their tongue, lips, mouth, and jaw. Because of this, every time they say a word it comes out differently, making it hard for their parents to understand them.

The rate of childhood apraxia is between one and two for every 1,000. With awareness increasing, children are being diagnosed with apraxia and autism more often than ever before.

The Penn State Hershey Pediatric Developmental Communication Assessment Clinic found that in an initial diagnostic screening, the follow up test showed that 63.6% of children diagnosed with autism were also diagnosed with apraxia. They also found that 36.8% of children diagnosed with apraxia were later diagnosed with autism. 23.3% of children were initially diagnosed with both.

Apraxia and autism symptoms can be improved with early intervention. By detecting one of the two disorders, it is easier to pinpoint the other. However, the two diagnoses have different types of intervention protocol. This is important because knowing the distinction can prevent long-term problems.  

The CASD, or Checklist for Autism Spectrum Disorder, is used to diagnose autism and apraxia. This tool contains four different types of assessments: two for apraxia and two for autism. Tierney says that CASD can be used to diagnose or rule out autism; therefore it is also used for apraxia.

Written by Sejal Sheth