Why Would a Government Panel Question Universal Autism Screening? UPDATE
Editors Note: this blog originally posted in August 2015. There are new updates to this story below.
When a serious developmental disability increases from 1 in every 10,000 US children in 1970 to 1 in 68 in 2015, how should the government respond (1)? One would think perhaps scale up screenings? Increase support? Look into cause and treatments? Sadly, the newest report is the opposite, to put a stop in screening all children. It is the exact opposite of the response autism should receive (2.)
Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation to screen ALL children because “screening is quick, affordable and has no substantial risk” a governmental group, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), is trying to quash one of the only ways to get kids into early intervention therapies.
This is what the new president of the AAP stated:
“Early identification and referral for appropriate intervention are critical to ensuring that children with autism have access to effective therapies,” said Sandra Hassink, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Research shows that early intervention can considerably improve children’s long-term development and social behaviors.”
So why slow it down?
It’s not just one group in our government slowing down when it comes to autism. There appear to be others.
That other group is the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). The IACC began in 2006, coordinating all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism spectrum disorder (3.) On this blog we have written about them many times (4.) They were just granted additional funding in 2014, but have yet to organize and meet since September 2014.
This is of much concern for families living with autism and for those suspecting it, it’s even worse. Who will be looking out for your child when it comes to something like autism? Waiting for a parent to suspect, bring up the concern and ask for help is not a good strategy. First time parents may not know what to look for when it comes to concerns regarding autism spectrum disorder.
We need to listen to the AAP and be in front of the diagnostics for many reasons. According to the USPSTF, the message appears to be: Don’t screen. Don’t count. Maybe no one will notice.
I hope they prove me otherwise because our children deserve a stronger, more urgent response. Make your universal autism screening feelings known at http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/draft-evidence-review106/autism-spectrum-disorder-in-young-children-screening
And lets ask the IACC what the next steps are for addressing the urgent needs for families living with autism https://iacc.hhs.gov/contacting-iacc/index.shtml
Update to August 2015 blog – February 17, 2016:
It’s official, there is insufficient evidence to argue the benefits of screening all children for autism. On this blog we wrote about the potential changes to recommending all children 1-3 years of age be screened for autism by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (5.)
“There’s not enough evidence for us to recommend for or against screening in children for autism under 30 months,” said David Grossman, vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and a Seattle pediatrician. “Clinicians need to make a judgment on their own about whether to screen. There is no right answer on that.” (6)
Parents that used to rely on professionals for screening and possible help now need to do the research themselves. We encourage families to point out issues to their pediatricians when baby milestones are not met or skills are lost and not stop talking until their child is fully evaluated. At TACA, we have an article for reference and support for families (7.) Early intervention is key for any child with a suspected developmental delay. For the life of me I cannot understand why we would stop recommendations for screening autism.
4. TACAnowblog IACC articles http://www.tacanow.org/blog/the-iacc-reconvenes/; http://www.tacanow.org/blog/what-constitutes-an-emergency/; http://www.tacanow.org/blog/what-the-iacc-must-consider/ Updates to story
5. Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Young children – final report
6. CNN report
7. TACA article: I think my child has autism