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Local speech therapists concerned CDC milestones could overlook early developmental delays

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

Developmental milestones, such as when your child should babble or walk, are crucial in detecting behavior and speech delays. 

Local speech therapists and parents have some concerns about the CDC’s changes.  

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

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

At four years old, the new CDC guidelines says she should have been telling stories and speaking in complex sentences.

“The sentences weren't as complex as the other kids,” she said.

Luckily, they caught the delay early enough.

“In pre-K, especially the intensive kind of speech therapy they do here, it really made a difference, and it brought her up into line with the grade she's in now,” Moroux said.

Stacy Levy, a speech-language pathologist at Dynamic Therapy Specialists, says early identification is key for noticing developmental delays.

“When we can get children in and identified, and we can help them so much earlier, then they're going to make such quicker gains in closing that gap,” Levy said.

But the CDC’s new milestones loosen criteria for younger ages.

“We're going to see that this is really going to change how children are identified, what age and how early,” Levy said.

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

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

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

Such a large gap may actually cause delays to go unnoticed until later ages, experts say.

“I think what could possibly happen is that we would not see as many of those younger ones, and then, all of a sudden, we're going to see when they hit school age,” Levy said.

Moroux says she does not think her daughter would be as successful if they did not recognize the delays in pre-K.

“The amount of progress she's made is remarkable,” Moroux said. “She's in third grade. She's at a magnet school here in Baton Rouge, and she's reading at grade level.”

She says her daughter continues to learn and grow every session.

Whether or not parents want to follow the CDC milestones, Levy urges parents to seek guidance from specialists if they notice any type of developmental delays.

 

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