Local speech-language pathologists fear CDC milestones overlook early developmental delays

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The CDC relaxed the developmental milestones for children when it recently relaxed COVID-19 guidelines.

Developmental milestones, such as when your child should babble or walk, are key to detecting behavioral and speech delays.

Local speech pathologists and parents are concerned about the changes made by the CDC.

Jennifer Moroux’s daughter started speech therapy when she was four years old.

“She was in a pre-K program and her teachers were noticing delays,” Moroux said.

At age four, new CDC guidelines say she should have told stories and spoken in complex sentences.

“The sentences weren’t as complex as those of the other children,” she said.

Luckily, they caught up on the backlog soon enough.

“In pre-kindergarten, especially the intensive type of speech therapy that they do here, it really made a difference and brought her into line with where she is now,” Moroux said.

Stacy Levy, speech pathologist at Dynamic Therapy Specialists, says early identification is key to detecting developmental delays.

“When we can get kids in and identify them, and we can help them much earlier, then they’re going to make faster gains closing that gap,” Levy said.

But the CDC’s new steps relax the criteria for younger people.

“We’re going to see that it’s really going to change how kids are identified, how old they are, and how early they are,” Levy said.

One change in the new recommendations is the number of words in a two-year-old’s vocabulary.

“The new expectation is for a child to have 50 words in their vocabulary,” she said. “What we know from the research is that…the average 30-month-old or two-and-a-half-year-old would have about 400 words.”

This means that the CDC expects two-year-olds to have about 12% of the vocabulary suggested by the research.

According to experts, such a large discrepancy can actually cause delays to go unnoticed until older ages.

“I think what could happen is we wouldn’t see as many of these young people, and then all of a sudden we’re going to see when they get to school age,” Levy said.

Moroux says she doesn’t think her daughter would do as well if she didn’t recognize the pre-K delays.

“The amount of progress she has made is remarkable,” Moroux said. “She’s in her third year. She’s in a magnet school here in Baton Rouge, and she reads at the grade level.

She says her daughter continues to learn and grow with each session.

Whether or not parents want to follow the CDC’s milestones, Levy urges parents to seek expert advice if they notice any kind of developmental delay.

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