The CDC updated their developmental milestone checklist. Here’s what you need to know.

The CDC updated their developmental milestone checklist. Here’s what you need to know.

Those first intentional smiles. Rolling from tummy to back. Taking their first step.

These skills are known as developmental milestones. Parents and caregivers turn to the internet, their child’s pediatrician and other parents for opinions and advice on their child’s behaviors and whether those are typical of most children their age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), just released their updated developmental milestone checklist as part of their Learn the Signs. Act Early. program. The program’s purpose is to help parents and caregivers learn more about their child’s development, including ways to promote development and what to do if they have concerns.

“One in six children in the US have a developmental delay, and recognizing these delays early can fundamentally change a child’s life,” says Cari Roestel, Learn the Signs. Act Early. ambassador for the state of Illinois and nurse case manager and ECHO Autism Coordinator at the Pediatric Developmental Center at Illinois Masonic Medical Center & Advocate Children’s Hospital.

“It’s important for parents to know it’s common for a child to need a ‘boost’ in their development and not to hesitate to reach out to their child’s pediatrician with concerns. The Learn the Signs. Act Early. free materials can help families understand when to act early to help their child,” she says.

The AAP and CDC have added checklists to match each well child visit age so parents can share their child’s milestone progress at each checkup with their pediatrician. They’ve also made changes to improve clarity around when most children would reach a milestone, therefore reducing the occurrence of taking the “wait and see” approach with missed milestones.

One such change to both make the guidelines clearer and avoid that “wait and see” approach: the checklists now assign milestones to ages when 75 percent or more of children would have reached them (for example, by 6 months of age, 75 percent of babies like to look at themselves in the mirror.)

“Children’s brains grow most rapidly before the age of 3, and providing additional needed supports before age 3 to promote development can have a lifelong effect,” Roestel says. “Taking the ‘wait and see’ approach can mean losing out on this time of incredible cognitive growth. With the updated milestones, the AAP and CDC hope more children will get any needed supports earlier and ‘wait and see’ less,” she says.

The milestones and additional helpful materials are available on the CDC’s website. As your child grows and you monitor their development, share any concerns you may have with their pediatrician.

Now is the perfect time to schedule your child’s annual checkup. Find a primary care doctor in Illinois or Wisconsin.

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  1. The CDC guidelines are too low for children with no disabilities. For the most part, children will do or try to do what is expected of them. If our expectations are low the results will also be low!

  2. As someone with a small child, it just seemed that they pushed everything back? I don’t see how that won’t encourage MORE “wait and see”. If earlier attention and intervention was the hope, you’d think setting earlier milestones would engage parents earlier, or spark conversations with their pediatrician.

    Or perhaps this generation of parents really are doing a worse job than previous ones, and the data is shifting where the majority of children really are reaching milestone goals later than those in the past. But then the cure still isn’t to push the goals back, but inform and teach this generation of parents to do better (without irony….myself included). Just seems poorly approached by the CDC, but what else is new.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.