On Tuesday, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released a new report that says there is not enough evidence of the benefits brought of screening all young children for autism. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD,  is a neurodevelopmental disability that directly affects c child’s development on social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and behavioral skills. The first signs of de disorder are shown typically before age three and they often develop gradually. About one in 45 children were diagnosed in 2014 with autism.

Photo: CBS News
Photo: CBS News

Screening a young child for autism is a delicate and sensitive topic for parents and health carers since it is unknown whether these tests are really of great value or potentially risky. 

“The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for ASD in young children for whom no concerns of ASD have been raised by their parents or a clinician,” as read in the report published in the Journal of the American of Medical Association (JAMA).

According to the USPSTF, this recommendation applies to children of 18 to 30 months without an ASD diagnosis nor any concern of the parents or health care professionals. However, they are causing concern that some children might not be diagnosed on time.

The screening process typically involves a checklist of questions for parents about their child’s behavior. The USPSTF members say they do not oppose to it, but it would be better if larger and controlled studies were carried out to provide actual evidence that screenings would help to identify children who otherwise wouldn’t be diagnosed with autism.

Different opinions

On the other side, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a different thing. They say screening must become a routine part of pediatric care. It does not matter if a child is or is no showing signs of autism, screening must be performed as a matter of prevention.

“The scientific community has been unequivocal of their support for universal screening for toddlers for autism, regardless of risk status,” said Alycia Halladay, chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation as reported by CNN.

According to Halladay, screenings are effective since an early diagnosis can also lead to earlier interventions, which would be a better benefit por a child whose little brain is more malleable at a younger age. This is the reason why she supports screenings.

Source: JAMA