The telomeric survival motor neuron (SMN(T)) gene is a valuable molecular diagnostic tool for childhood-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) as homozygous deletions of SMN(T) exon 7 (delta7SMN(T)) are present in approximately 94% of patients. In this report, we provide the first comprehensive study of 32 unrelated non-deletion SMA patients. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) studies established that 90% had two intact copies of SMN(T) exon 7 suggesting that these patients do not have 5q SMA. Once 5q SMA is confirmed, the SMN(T) gene can be screened for subtle mutations. Using single strand conformation analysis, we identified two missense mutations (P245L and Y272C) in exon 6 of the SMN(T) gene of two SMA patients shown to have a single copy of SMN(T) exon 7. Y272 is most likely critical for SMN(T) function as it is a target for recurring mutations and is associated with type I SMA. These results emphasize the need for dosage analysis in the differential diagnosis of 5q SMA in nondeletion patients, consistent with extensive clinical heterogeneity and some genetic heterogeneity in this disease. Homozygosity or heterozygosity for a delta7SMN(T) allele confirms the diagnosis of 5q SMA with greater precision than clinical examination alone.