Archived | Early Autism Detection: Are We Ready For Routine Screening? | Circa June 13, 2011 #AutisticHistory

Routine autism screening? Not so fast.

Washington Post

On Parenting

June 13, 2011

From elsewhere in The Post: Children should not be routinely checked for autism spectrum disorder, says research published today in the journal Pediatrics. A few weeks ago, a study in Pediatrics suggested the opposite, citing a questionnaire on the disorder parents filled out at their babies’ first-year checkups in San Diego County. Jennifer LaRue Huget blogs in The Checkup about the differences in opinion on screening kids for the developmental disorder.

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Washington Post

Routine Autism Screening? Not So Fast

Jennifer LaRue Huget

June 13, 2011

A few weeks ago my colleague Rob Stein wrote about a study published in the journal Pediatrics that suggested all children should be routinely screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by their physicians whether they showed symptoms or not.

Today another article, also in Pediatrics, puts the brakes on that idea.

In short, the authors say that there’s not enough evidence showing that the benefits of such screening outweigh the risks. It also notes that no screening tool, including the one favored in the earlier article, has been subjected to scrutiny by randomized controlled trial, which has built the case for other forms of screening such as that for breast cancer.

The article, based on a review of scientific literature, found that existing screening tests haven’t been shown to be accurate or reliable enough in identifying patients with ASD. It further noted that, because there’s no cure or therapy that can be counted upon to dramatically improve the lives of most people with ASD, diagnosing the condition early has limited utility. 

At this time we recommend careful surveillance and assessment of all preschoolers who present with impairments in their development of language, social function, or cognitive skills that result in activity limitations, but we believe that community screening of all pre-schoolers is premature.

Early Autism Detection: Are We Ready For Routine Screening?

Mona Al-Qabandi, Jan Willem Gorter and Peter Rosenbaum

Pediatrics July 2011,  128 (1) e211-e217; DOI: 


BACKGROUND. Autism is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that has a reportedly rising prevalence rate. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screening for autism be incorporated into routine practice. It is important to consider the pros and cons of conducting autism screening as part of routine practice and its implications on the community. We have explored this question in the context of screening from a scientific point of view.

METHOD: A literature search was conducted to assess the effectiveness of community screening programs for autism.

RESULTS: Judged against critical questions about autism, screening programs failed to fulfill most criteria. Good screening tools and efficacious treatment are lacking, and there is no evidence yet that such a program would do more good than harm.

CONCLUSIONS: On the basis of the available research, we believe that we do not have enough sound evidence to support the implementation of a routine population-based screening program for autism. Ongoing research in this field is certainly needed, including the development of excellent screening instruments and demonstrating with clinical trials that such programs work and do more good than harm.


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