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Should Your Child Get Screened For Autism? Experts Are Uncertain

17 February 2016, 7:22 am EST By Rina Marie Doctor Tech Times
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Why sisters may be the key to understanding autism risk

Subjecting a child for autism screening is a sensitive topic for parents and carers. This leaves the public to wonder if such testings are really of great value. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says it is not.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impairs the social and functional health of children, even as they grow old. The prevalence of the disorder continues to increase; therefore, experts think that interventions that can elicit long-term favorable outcomes may benefit society.

A part of ASD management is to screen kids at risk so medical interventions may be started as necessary. However, when the USPSTF reviewed the ASD screening protocols for children aged 18-30 months, the feedback was not that positive.

USPSTF Gives Low Grades To Current ASD Screening

USPSTF concluded that the available proof is deficient to identify the balance between the advantages and disadvantages of ASD screening. In fact, the group has given it an I grade. Such grade indicates that the available studies supporting ASD screening is small in size and variable in quality. Ultimately, the grade signifies the lack of direct proof that the testings can really improve clinical status.

USPSTF followed its set methodologies and performed a thorough analysis on the best available evidence. Questioning the group may devalue its function of being the core evaluator of such processes.

Looking At The Bigger Picture

Professional groups, clinicians and families are quite upset with the results. However, the public should look at the bigger picture on policy and patient care and see if universal ASD screening is indeed necessary. This means that people should not only look at the individual links to the positive as these are just small pieces of the complicated process. For example, it is not enough to say that applying a particular screening technique on a particular child has paved the way for a specific treatment. While this may generate positive results for some conditions, it is not the case for ASD, USPSTF says.

The key is to find direct evidence.

Failed Mark: Motivation To Do More

Critics say finding direct evidence is very hard, especially because of the complexities of screening and treatment engagement. While USPSTF acknowledges this, it is not reason enough to modify the standards and give a positive recommendation.

They key point here is to channel the letdown to the positive and use the "failed mark" as motivation to perform better research.

Insurance Links

Critics have also raised the possibility of misinterpretation and unintended effects. Such concern is significantly influenced by the Affordable Care Act's rule that mandates first-dollar coverage for preventive services with a grade A or B.

Although misinterpretation may be possible, the USPSTF says it should not rely solely on this possibility. Ultimately, the task force says its recommendation is neither a move against screening nor insurance coverage; rather it is a call to do further research.

"The USPSTF embraced this issue in all its complexity," the report reads. "Physicians, other health professionals, policy makers, insurers, and other stakeholders should do the same."

Photo: Lars Plougmann | Flickr

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