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.