What is the Benefit of Having an Autism Biomarker?
Biomarkers as clinical tools
Biomarkers serve many purposes in the clinic, from revealing whether a patient is more likely to develop a disorder to indicating that a patient is healing well from surgery. Biomarkers, in a sense, are tools that a doctor can use to understand what is happening, or to predict what might happen, in the body.
Autism screening using biomarkers
Reliable biomarkers can help us screen young infants before the onset of behavioral symptoms (for example, impaired social interaction or language delay). The forewarning that a child might develop autism enables parents to be receptive to behavioral cues and increases the chances for a child to have early intervention. For example, parents can be proactive with targeted behavior modifications rather than using nonproductive forms of punishment for abnormal behavior.
After a child is diagnosed with autism, some biomarkers may help predict the severity along the ASD spectrum. Knowing about predicted language development or cognitive function at an early stage can help parents develop targeted treatment strategies and plan accordingly.
Considerations for biomarker use
Because autism screening using biomarkers could unintentionally place neurotypical children into a high-risk group, it is important to keep in mind the reality that the presence of a biomarker is not a definitive diagnosis. Family dynamics, ethical matters, and societal considerations (such as health insurance policies) are all issues that must be considered when discussing the use of biomarkers for autism screening.