Many with Autism Have Oral Apraxia, But What Is It, Exactly?

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Oral apraxia is a motor disorder that causes a person to be unable to properly move his or her lips, jaw, or tongue on command to properly produce words and/or make appropriate facial expressions. Some may be unable to control their breathing on command as well.

NOTE: In cases where the main issue is verbal communication rather than facial movement, a similar disorder called verbal apraxia or apraxia of speech may be at play. While the two are believed to be separate disorders, they share similarities and often exist comorbidly. This article includes insights that may be relevant to both disorders.

Photo: Adobe Stock/RFBSIP

Photo: Adobe Stock/RFBSIP

Signs of oral apraxia or verbal apraxia may include the inability to:

  • smile
  • kiss
  • blow bubbles
  • blow out candles
  • stick out his or her tongue
  • lick his or her lips
  • bite his or her lower or upper lip
  • blow his or her nose
  • learn to speak at an appropriate age
  • form words or sounds correctly
  • imitate a facial expression
  • make a facial expression that coordinates with his or her emotions

Oral apraxia and verbal apraxia are more common in people with autism, but the disorder can appear in those who are not on the autism spectrum. In the past, apraxia, including oral apraxia and other forms of the disorder, were considered symptoms of autism, and, even today, they are not always properly addressed as separate disorders.


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