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    Uncertainty about autism screening efficacy

    A federal panel is asking for more research to support regular autism screening, stating in new draft guidance that there is not enough evidence that early, routine screenings recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and many others are worthwhile.

    The new draft recommendation by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has the autism community up in arms over what seems to be a position against routine autism spectrum disorder (ASD) screening.

    Contrary to the first impression of the report, however, the draft report does not recommend against routine screening, but rather puts out a call for more studies on the benefits and disadvantages of early general screening.

    The draft recommendation statement, released in early August by the USPSTF, states that current evidence is insufficient to assess the efficacy of ASD screening for children who have no symptoms or for whom no concerns have been raised by their caregivers.

    The recommendation to withhold screening unless a parent expresses concerns or the child displays symptoms has been compared by some experts to avoiding car maintenance until something breaks.

    Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP, says early identification and intervention is critical for ensuring that children with autism have access to effective treatment. The AAP recommends all children be screened for ASD at 18 and 24 months of age.

    “The draft recommendation statement on autism screening released August 3 by the [USPSTF] runs counter to AAP guidelines,” Hassink says. “The AAP remains committed to its recommendation for the timely screening and identification of children who would benefit from early intervention and treatment.”

     

    Rachael Zimlich, RN
    Ms Zimlich is a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes regularly for Contemporary Pediatrics, Managed Healthcare Executive, and ...

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