CDC makes changes to developmental milestone checklist for kids

The CDC recently updated a checklist for developmental milestones for children. While it’s a step in being proactive to identify delays, some health professionals fear it could have the opposite effect.

Parents across social media have voiced concern over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent changes to its Developmental Milestones checklist.

It’s the first time the CDC updated the list since its release in 2004. Now, the CDC has decided to delay the time for when kids should be crawling, talking and even walking.

“CDC’s milestones and parent tips have been updated and new checklist ages have been added (15 and 30 months),” the CDC said on its website.

Cases of delayed developmental milestones among children have increased during the pandemic.

“We’ve seen children referred more for speech delays (since the pandemic began) because they don’t necessarily interact with other children,” said Rosemary Morgan, a physical therapist at Baptist Healthlink Rehab in Stone Oak with 11 years of experience. “Then, (we) also (have referrals dealing) with mobility more, because of the containers that (kids) spend time in, because it does make life easier (for parents). Containers, meaning carriers, bouncers, rockers, jumpers. There’s so many things you can put a baby in that make life easier but don’t necessarily help in development for these babies.”

According to the CDC, it is OK for a 30-month-old child to say only about 50 words.

“Our data, our research (and) charts that we follow, we see an average of about 400 words in a 30-month-old,” said Lindsey Cárdenas, a speech language pathologist for Assessment Intervention Management, or AIM, Partners in Education. AIM is a San Antonio-based company that provides specialized educational services for children.

“So, those are significant differences that are concerning to us because our fear is that parents will wait a little bit longer to see if they catch up. (As) opposed to seeking intervention and seeking information and resources to know how to support those communication needs,” she said.

Research shows a correlation between a child’s language milestones and academic success.

“If they get into kindergarten as a five-year-old, and they only have 30 50 words, that is going to be a red flag,” Cárdenas said. “They’re supposed to be able to rhyme. They’re supposed to be able to segment and blend words. And, at that point, (if) the vocabulary is not there, we aren’t able to intervene as quickly as we would have.”

In the case of speech pathology professionals like Cárdenas, the CDC’s recommendations will not change their approach as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA, governs them.

ASHA’s mission is to make effective communication accessible and achievable for all.

“As speech language pathologists, we learn first and foremost. We create awareness. We educate, and we provide resources pre- any of these changes from the milestones,” Cárdenas said.

The push is now to increase awareness for early intervention.

Pediatric physical therapists are also concerned about some of the new recommendations. The CDC no longer lists crawling as a milestone. And when it comes to walking, the CDC states parents shouldn’t be worried unless their child isn’t walking at 18 months versus the original 12 months.

To learn more about the importance of a child crawling and walking, watch the video below that features an interview with physical therapist Rosemary Morgan from Baptist Healthlink Rehab in Stone Oak.

To view the CDC Milestone Moment Checklist, click here.