When you first have a baby, there seems to be conflicting advice when it comes to monitoring your child’s milestone development. On one hand, we feel this immense pressure to help our kids reach their milestones on time, but on the other hand, when a child doesn’t meet key milestones, pediatricians and veteran parents will often flippantly tell us not to worry. It’s confusing and overwhelming, especially when you have a child who is consistently meeting their marks, but always doing so a bit later than they “should” and their pediatrician doesn’t seem to show any concern. This disconnect between parents and providers is what led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to update their guidelines for developmental milestone monitoring for better clarity.
The Major Change In The New CDC & AAP Milestone Guidelines
On Feb. 8, 2022, the CDC and AAP rolled out their revised milestone guidelines for their developmental surveillance campaign, Learn the Signs. Act Early (LTSAE). It has been well documented that the earlier kids with developmental delays can get support, the better their outcome will be. In fact, it’s so important that every state has some kind of early intervention program for children up to three years old that offers easy (sometimes free) access to various types of therapeutic treatment. However, because of the way the CDC and AAP milestone guidelines were set up, too many pediatricians were taking the “wait and see” approach with kids, which delayed the start of early intervention.
Prior to Feb. 8, all key milestones were based on what 50% of children can be expected to achieve by a certain age. So, basically, there was always a 50/50 shot a child would or would not meet a milestone on time, which is why when a child was a little behind it didn’t seem like a big deal and why so many providers were slow to recommend evaluation for early intervention. Now, with the revised guidelines, all milestones reflect what 75% of children can be expected to achieve by a certain age, so if a child hasn’t met a milestone it’s easier to flag it as a potential delay.
Additional CDC & AAP Milestone Changes
Other important changes to these guidelines include the addition of checklists for ages 15-months and 30-months as well as for every well-child visit from ages 2 months through 5 years. Additionally, new social and emotional milestones have been added, vague language has been removed to provide better clarity, and duplicate milestones have been removed. The CDC and AAP have also provided new open-ended questions for providers to ask families as well as new and revised tips for parents and activities for supporting their child’s developmental growth. Even better, not only did they update all of this guidance to be more straightforward, but they also took extra time to ensure it was written in a way that it would be easy for parents across a variety of backgrounds to understand.
Milestone Checklists & Early Intervention Resources
The new milestone checklists are available on the CDC’s website, and they range from 2 months to 5 years old. Under each milestone, parents can find detailed information about what they should be looking for as well as access to a summary PDF (like this one for 6 months). The CDC also has a Milestone Tracker app that parents can download, allowing them to easily reference where their child should be developmentally based on their age. If you’re interested in learning more about your state’s early intervention program, you can either talk to your child’s pediatrician or find your state contact through the CDC’s website (for kids over age three, contact your local public school and ask to have your child evaluated for preschool special education services).
The revised CDC and AAP guidelines for developmental milestone monitoring is a total game-changer. It equips parents with more concrete information for where their child should be developmentally, and it allows pediatricians to more quickly and effectively identify delays so they can help families get access to the resources they need for early intervention. Thanks to these changes, worried parents everywhere can let out huge sighs of relief and feel confident in taking whatever next step they think is appropriate for their child(ren).