Do All Children Need Autism Screening?

Autism testing not needed for all kids; doctors not so sure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Doctors don’t need to screen all children routinely for the signs of autism, according to a recent study—contradicting what the country’s largest group of pediatricians recommends.

Researchers from McMaster University and Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital in Kuwait surveyed past studies to look at the effectiveness of screening tests for autism. These scientists assessed whether these screening tests identified the symptoms of autism accurately.

"Ask your doctor if your child needs to be screened for autism."

None of the tests surveyed reliably detect autism in children, said Dr. Jan Willem Gorter, a researcher in McMaster University’s CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, associate professor of pediatrics and one of the study’s authors. The study appeared in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, has recommended that autism screening be part of a regular doctor’s check-up for all children. The academy says in its recommendations that “early and continuous” screening for autism is important. That way, interventions can start as early as possible.

The study’s authors contend that screening should be done only for preschoolers who show signs of social, thinking and language problems, not for all children.

Experts estimate that six children in every 1,000 have some form of autism. The symptoms include impaired social, motor and communication skills.

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Review Date: 
June 17, 2011
Last Updated:
June 20, 2011