An autistic diagnosis changes the course of child’s life, and their parents’.
What if it isn’t true?
That is something McMaster researchers are trying to avoid, asking for a call to action from the research community against a recent proposal recommending routine autism screening for all children.
“You could miss-label a child,” said McMaster researcher Dr. Jan Willem Gorter. “We know that a child can be over diagnosed based on symptoms. For example, if a young child doesn’t respond to its name it could well be an early sign of autism.
“But it could also be something as simple as a hearing difficulty.”
Gorter is a researcher for McMaster’s CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research and associate professor of pediatrics. His findings in a literary review suggest that there are no good screening tools and no evidence that routine screening will do more good than harm, contrary to a recent recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) incorporate autism screening into routine practice.
Early Autism Detection: Are We Ready for Routine Screening?
Mona Al-Qabandi, MD, MRCPCHa, Jan Willem Gorter, MD, PhD, FRCP(C)b,c, Peter Rosenbaum, MD, FRCP(C)b,c
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.