The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is against universal autism screening. Earlier this week the health panel released a recommendation saying that there’s not enough evidence to justify screening all children for the mental disorder.
The draft is especially addresses towards children who don’t yet show any symptoms of autism, however the health panel’s opinion has proven to be more than a little controversial among field experts.
The Task Force came to this conclusion after looking at about 40 different studies that have documented the impact that screening for autism has. The subjects in said studies were all asymptomatic children under the age of 3, who did not show any signs of skipping developmental milestones according to their parents and physicians.
But opposing voices stress that many other studies have shown that whether or not the disorder is detected early on has a dramatic impact on how well the treatment works. One of the most eye opening findings was published less than a year ago, in September 2014, in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The 2014 study tried to determine what an early intervention program for infants who have been diagnosed with autism would look like. The researchers found that babies no older than sever (7) to 15 months who started exhibiting early signs of autism would catch up developmentally by the time they’re two (2) or three (3) years old if they underwent an immediate 12 week intervention program.
The study results were remarkable, but despite these finding, Autism Speaks, an advocacy group, informs that children currently get diagnosed around the age of four (4).
Many health experts were hoping to make autism screenings universal so that these children would have a better chance at a healthier development, and the Task Force’s recommendation has left them deeply disappointed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has given a statement saying that it fully supports universal autism screenings, while Alycia Halladay, the Autism Science Foundation’s chief science officer, gave a statement of her own informing that certain tools have proven effective in diagnosing children with autism, even when they haven’t shown any outward signs yet.
She doesn’t want there to be any ambiguity on this particular issue. Halladay explained that “Standardized tools and instruments to screen for autism are better than clinician judgment alone”. She firmly believes that these tools should be used “to identify autism spectrum disorder” in all children, at an early age.
Halladay also stressed that some children show very subtle symptoms and signs “that may be missed in a short, hurried well baby checkup”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informs that the number of autistic children is on the rise, as one (1) in 68 kids is currently diagnosed with autism.
What this means is that the number of patients has increased by 30 percent (30%) since 2008, when one (1) in 88 kids used to be diagnosed with autism, and by 120 percent (120%) since 2000, when one (1) in 150 kids used to be diagnosed with autism.
Despite all of this, the Task Force says that there’s simply not enough evidence to justify universal autism screenings or any other diagnostic test for prevention.
Image Source: williamoconnor.com