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Toward a Dyspraxic Subtype of Autism Spectrum Disorder (funded through NAAR)

Drs. Gernsbacher and Goldsmith suggest that results of genetic and brain imaging studies have been less definitive because of the heterogeneity of symptom profiles in persons with autism. The aim of this project was to identify and validate a subtype of autism, which they refer to as “developmental verbal dyspraxia.” Developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD) is a motor-speech programming disorder resulting in difficulty coordinating and sequencing oral-motor movements necessary to produce and combine speech sounds to form syllables, words, phrases, and sentences. The researchers hypothesized that some minimally or nonverbal persons with autism are characterized by developmental verbal dyspraxia. This project sought to identify and validate a DVD subtype of autism by screening all children with autism in a metropolitan area; identifying members of this group who are also characterized by DVD; selecting an autism control group of children not characterized by DVD and a typically developing control group; collecting extensive behavioral, medical, and developmental histories of all children in these groups; obtaining neuroanatomical data; and collecting and storing DNA for future candidate gene studies.