Dr. Claudia R. Morris, MD, FAAP is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. She has a successful track record of independent funding and publications outside areas of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and has led several single and multi-center trials in sickle cell disease, thalassemia, pulmonary hypertension and asthma. Her research interests involve mechanisms of oxidative stress, and development of clinical trials utilizing targeted nutritional interventions.
Her commitment to autism research is motivated by personal experiences after the recovery of her own son from an apraxic condition that she was the first to characterize in a 2009 publication. Her ability to translate her expertise from previous research in asthma and sickle cell disease using metabolic profiling to identify mechanisms of inflammation and oxidative stress to the study of autism may provide significant insight into the pathophysiology of ASD. Dr. Morris is very motivated to help families struggling with apraxia and ASD, as she believes this is a treatable metabolic condition at least in a subgroup that requires the attention and cooperation of scientists & clinicians in multiple disciplines beyond neuro-developmental pediatrics and genetics to sort out this complex puzzle.
This presentation will improve awareness of apraxia and dyspraxia, common but often overlooked co-morbidities found in children with ASD. Children with an apraxia phenotype likely have different mechanisms contributing to their disorder than children without a motor planning disorder, and may represent a distinct clinical sub-group of ASD. Apraxia and dyspraxia will be defined, and symptoms and metabolic anomalies of a subset of children with verbal apraxia will be characterized. Dr. Morris was the first to identify a common clinical phenotype of male predominance, autism, sensory issues, low muscle tone, coordination difficulties, food allergy/intolerance, gastrointestinal symptoms and a cluster of nutritional deficiencies in a cohort of children diagnosed with verbal apraxia that may represent a previously unrecognized syndrome of allergy, apraxia/autism and malabsorption (SAAM). Recommended laboratory analyses based on the data presented will be discussed as well as nutritional interventions that may be of value. Future direction for apraxia research will also be emphasized.