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    Panel Undecided on Screening All Kids for Autism

    U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says more data needed to say yes or no to universal testing

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Robert Preidt

    HealthDay Reporter

    TUESDAY, Feb. 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- There's just not enough good data to determine whether there's value in routinely screening all young children for autism, an influential panel of U.S. health experts said Tuesday.

    After considering current information, as well as getting input from health care professionals and the public, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded there is not enough evidence to determine the long-term effects of autism screening for children who don't have obvious symptoms of the disorder or whose parents or health care providers are not concerned about the child's development.

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in every 68 children is now affected by an autism spectrum disorder.

    The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of experts that reviews the scientific evidence and makes recommendations regarding health screening procedures.

    One advocacy group for children with autism was not pleased by the panel's decision, which was published Feb. 16 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    "We are very disappointed in the final recommendation of the USPSTF with regards to universal screening for autism spectrum disorders," said Alycia Halladay, chief science officer with the Autism Science Foundation.

    "Scientific studies prove that earlier identification and intervention leads to better outcomes," she added. "These recommendations may harm children whose symptoms are not obvious to parents or clinicians. We support the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] and other professional organizations that support screening for autism spectrum disorders at 18 and 30 months."

    In its statement, the task force stressed that it is not advising for or against autism screening at this time. However, the panel is calling for more research to help it make a recommendation in the future.

    "To date, autism research has appropriately focused on treatment for children who have significant symptoms," panel vice chair and pediatrician Dr. David Grossman said in a task force news release.

    "Now we need more research to help us understand the benefits and harms of screening young children whose parents, caregivers or doctor have not noticed any symptoms," said Grossman. He is a professor of health services and adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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