What Parents Need To Know About The New Autism Screening Guidelines

The United States Preventive Services Task Force, one of the United States’ most influential medical panels, just issued new guidelines arguing that there isn’t enough evidence to support screening all 18- to 30-month-olds for autism spectrum disorders.

The statement, published in JAMA on Tuesday, found plenty of evidence showing current autism screening tools can be very effective at detecting autism in toddler-age children, but ultimately concluded that when it comes to universal screening for children, the benefits simply don’t outweigh the potential harms — for now.

But when big medical groups make pronouncements about public health issues, it can be tough to make sense of the implications for you and your child, especially when the opinion is likely to stir up disagreement, as this one is.

Here, two experts help us make sense of what the new recommendation means for you:

1) As a parent of a young child, you cannot expect that your child’s primary doctor will automatically screen for ASD.

The role of the USPSTF is to analyze research on various types of preventive care and make broad recommendations for patients without obvious signs or symptoms. With regards to autism, the group found the potential harms of universal testing were pretty minimal, including misdiagnosis and the anxiety that it can cause. But on the flip side, the panel found there simply isn’t enough scientific evidence to indicate that universal screening definitely leads to more accurate diagnoses and better outcomes for children, explained Steven Meyers, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

All of which means that moms and dads cannot assume routine screening will be a part of their toddlers’ pediatrician visits.

“If parents have concerns about symptoms related to autism, they must share them with the doctor for appropriate follow-up,” said Meyers.

“Physicians can then give screening —> Read More