Aims To investigate the accuracy of phenotypic early-onset ataxia (EOA) recognition among developmental conditions, including developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and hypotonia of central nervous system origin, and the effect of scientifically validated EOA features on changing phenotypic consensus. Method We included 32 children (4-17y) diagnosed with EOA (n=11), DCD (n=10), and central hypotonia (n=11). Three paediatric neurologists independently assessed videotaped motor behaviour phenotypically and quantitatively (using the Scale for Assessment and Rating of Ataxia [SARA]). We determined: (1) phenotypic interobserver agreement and phenotypic homogeneity (percentage of phenotypes with full consensus by all three observers according to the underlying diagnosis); (2) SARA (sub)score profiles; and (3) the effect of three scientifically validated EOA features on phenotypic consensus. Results Phenotypic homogeneity occurred in 8 out of 11, 2 out of 10, and 1 out of 11 patients with EOA, DCD, and central hypotonia respectively. Homogeneous phenotypic discrimination of EOA from DCD and central hypotonia occurred in 16 out of 21 and 22 out of 22 patients respectively. Inhomogeneously discriminated EOA and DCD phenotypes (5 out of 21) revealed overlapping SARA scores with different SARA subscore profiles. After phenotypic reassessment with scientifically validated EOA features, phenotypic homogeneity changed from 16 to 18 patients. Interpretation In contrast to complete distinction between EOA and central hypotonia, the paediatric motor phenotype did not reliably distinguish between EOA and DCD. Reassessment with scientifically validated EOA features could contribute to a higher phenotypic consensus.
Early-onset ataxia (EOA) and central hypotonia motor phenotypes were reliably distinguished. EOA and developmental coordination disorder (DCD) motor phenotypes were not reliably distinguished. The EOA and DCD phenotypes have different profiles of the Scale for Assessment and Rating of Ataxia.