Changes to the Developmental Milestones Guidelines Cause Confusion and Conflict

By February 28, 2022NESCA Notes 2022

By Olivia Rogers, MA, CF-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist, NESCA

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated guidelines for developmental milestones in the Learn the Signs. Act Early program for the first time since its initial release in 2004. This program provides free checklists of developmental milestones and outlines warning signs of developmental delays in the following areas: social/emotional, language/communication, cognition, and movement/physical.

One of the biggest CDC developmental milestone changes involves language development. Since 2004, the CDC has stated a 24-month-old should have a vocabulary of 50 words. Now, that milestone of 50 words has been pushed back to 30-months-old. This new standard clashes with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) guidance, which states that saying fewer than 50 words at 24 months is a potential red flag for a language delay or disorder.

Confusion regarding the recent changes may impact the (already) difficult decision that many parents are faced with in the first few years of their child’s life: whether or not to seek professional support for their child.

Despite the changes to the outlined milestones, the intentions behind this checklist remain consistent—early identification and intervention is key. When it comes to your child’s speech and language development, we suggest not taking the “wait and see” approach. The first three years of your child’s life—when the brain is developing and maturing—is the most intensive period for acquiring key speech and language skills.

Though children vary in their development of speech and language skills, they do follow a natural progression for mastering these skills of language. If you’re worried your child isn’t meeting milestones and wondering when the right time or the best age is for speech/language therapy, take action sooner than later. Contact a local speech-language pathologist. The earlier a child is identified with a delay, the better, as treatment and learning interventions can begin.

We urge parents to follow their instincts and seek guidance when there is a concern. You will either get much needed help for your child or peace of mind, and your local speech-language pathologists are happy to help.

If your pre-school-aged child is having difficulty with any of the following, concerns can be addressed through a speech/language assessment and/or therapy:

  • Saying first words or combining words into sentences
  • Using gestures
  • Naming and describing objects, ideas, and experiences
  • Pronouncing words or being understood by family or others
  • Interacting socially or playing with others
  • Understanding words, concepts, or gestures
  • Listening, following directions, or answering questions
  • Knowing how to take turns when talking or playing with others
  • Using correct grammar, such as pronouns and verb forms


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, January 31). CDC’s Developmental Milestones. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 24, 2022, from

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2000). Speech and Language Developmental Milestones. NIH Publication No. 00-4781.


About the Author

Olivia Rogers received her Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Maine, after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders and concentrations in Childhood Development and Disability Studies.

Ms. Rogers has experience working both in the pediatric clinic setting as well as in public schools, evaluating and treating children 2-18 years of age presenting with a wide range of diagnoses (e.g., language delays and disorders, speech sound disorders, childhood apraxia of speech, autism spectrum disorder, social communication disorder, and Down syndrome). Ms. Rogers enjoys making sure therapy is fun and tailored to each client’s interests.

In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts and spending times with friends and families.


Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email or call 617-658-9800.


To book an appointment with Olivia Rogers, please complete our Intake Form today. For more information about NESCA, please email or call 617-658-9800.