No recommendation for routine autism screening, says US task force

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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says there's not enough evidence to recommend routine screenings in apparently healthy children. (KABC)

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says there's not enough evidence to recommend routine screenings in apparently healthy children. The influential panel's opinion is creating frustration for some in the autism community.

New mom Krissa Klotzle has her hands full with her four children - 3 weeks, 18 months, 3 and 5 years old.

She's glad her pediatrician is monitoring their development, which includes a screening test for autism.

"From a personal standpoint, it's good to find out things early, so I guess in that sense, it's good," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 68 children will have autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrician Dr. John Rodarte says given those numbers, it's no longer a rare condition.

"More and more parents wonder, 'Wow, is there a chance that my child is going to be that one in 68?' So I think it's a worry for every parent," Rodarte said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an M-CHAT done at 18 and 24 months. M-CHAT stands for Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, and it involves asking questions and doctors observing your child.

"It at least gives you a good idea if there is a number of items on that checklist that come up as positive, that can give you an idea that we need to do further screening or keep checking more closely," Rodarte said.

But now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a top advisory group, says there's not enough evidence to recommend routine screenings in apparently healthy children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics disagrees, saying in part, "For screening to be effective, by design it must be applied to all children - not only those who exhibit overt symptoms."

"The earlier the services that you can provide, the more that child has a chance to improve on what they can do from a social, mental, every type of stand point," Rodarte said.

Whether all physicians will heed the advice has yet to be determined. Rodarte's advice is - never hesitate to express you concerns with your pediatrician.

"I mean, I don't know everything and that's why you're trusting your doctors," Klotzle said.

Even if a child is not diagnosed with autism, doctors may discover other conditions that need attention.

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