US Preventive Services Task Force: not all children should be screened for autism

childrenRockville, Md. — It is not necessary to require all children to undergo screening for autism, according to a recommendation by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

The task force— a government-funded, independent panel comprised of volunteer doctors— released a draft report saying that it sees no need for every child to undergo autism screening, particularly those who do not exhibit any symptom of the developmental disorder.

The USPSTF based its recommendation on about 40 published researches that studied the impact of screening children below three years of age for autism, even though they do not exhibit symptoms of the disorder and even though neither their parents nor their doctors have expressed any concern over any developmental delay that the children might display.

But some physicians do not agree with the USPSTF’s recommendation. This includes the American Academy of Pediatrics— which supports universal autism screening— and this is because a number of researches have also established that early intervention is crucial for children on the autism spectrum.

A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in September, for example, found that infants as young as seven to 15 months old who were given a 12-week intervention after displaying early symptoms of autism were already at par with other typically developing children by the time they reached two to three years of age.

According to Autism Science Foundation Chief Science Officer Alycia Halladay:

“There should be no ambiguity on this issue: Standardized tools and instruments to screen for autism are better than clinician judgment alone and should be used in all children to identify autism spectrum disorder at an early age. There are kids with very subtle signs and symptoms that may be missed in a short, hurried well baby checkup.”

The USPSTF is expected to release its final recommendation in four to six months, but Halladay believes this recommendation can be potentially harmful to patients in risk of developing autism. She told:

“It is equivocal and misleading to clinicians that wonder whether or not they should be doing it.”

Source: Newsweek Don’t Screen All Kids for Autism, Says Health Panel