american academy of pediatrics

Changes to the Developmental Milestones Guidelines Cause Confusion and Conflict

By | NESCA 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 https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html

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 info@nesca-newton.com 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 info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.


Growing in a Fog: The Impact of Sleep Loss on Children’s Development

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
Director of Training and New Hampshire Operations

A recent study conducted at the University of Warwick, in the United Kingdom, supported the long-held belief that reduced sleep in children has a significant negative effect on their cognitive and emotional functioning. Findings were recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, in an article, titled “Sleep duration, brain structure, and psychiatric and cognitive problems in children.”

When examining children ages nine to 11, reduced sleep was associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety and impulsive behavior, as well as poorer cognitive performance. Findings showed that, on average, behavior problems were 53% higher in children who got less than seven hours of sleep, compared to those who got nine to 11 hours. Additionally, on average, total cognitive scores were 7.8% lower in the children with reduced sleep.

Negative effects of sleep loss were not only observed through children’s behavior and task performance, but there were table differences within brain structure as well. Shorter sleep duration was related to lower volume in brain structures that are responsible for decision making, learning, emotion regulation, memory, executive function, sensory regulation, language function and spatial perception, among other skills. Because sleep is a highly active process, during which children’s brain circuitry reorganizes, it is thought that sleep loss can interfere with actual physical brain maturation, not just emotional, behavioral and cognitive functioning.

This study conducted by the University of Warwick is not the first to demonstrate how a lack of sleep negatively impacts children’s and adolescent’s functioning. In addition to better emotional and cognitive health, adequate sleep is also related to better physical health, including reduced injuries, heart disease and obesity (www.aap.org).

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschoolers get 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day; grade school children get 9 to 12 hours of sleep; and teenagers get eight to 10 hours of sleep. While this is so, children are often chronically sleep deprived due to excessive school, social and extracurricular demands. Increasing screen time and access to social media is also problematic, not only because these distract children and teens from sleeping, but technology use interferes with the release of melatonin, reduces REM sleep and activates the wake center of the brain. It is thus not surprising that a 2015 analysis of data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys found that approximately 57.8% of middle schoolers and 72.7% percent of high schoolers are not getting enough sleep. In spite of this, school start times remain early, expectations for extracurricular involvement remain high, and blue-light-filled technology is increasingly necessary for the completion of late-night homework assignments. This occurs alongside a steady rise of stress and anxiety within pediatric populations, pointing to the importance of re-evaluating the demands and conditions under which our children are expected to grow and learn.

Sleep is a foundational necessity on which cognition, emotion regulation, attention and learning build. The negative effects of sleep loss can be felt at any age, but they are particularly concerning in childhood, a time when the brain is rapidly developing. The American Academy of Pediatrics has provided some tips on how to support healthy sleep in a child of any age. These can be accessed at www.healthychildren.org, at the below link.


University of Warwick. (2020, February 4). Children’s mental health is affected by sleep duration. Retrieved on February 24, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200204094726.htm

Wheaton AG, Jones SE, Cooper AC, Croft JB 2018, ‘Short Sleep Duration Among Middle School and High School Students — United States, 2015’, MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep., vol. 67, pp. 85–90.

American Academy of Pediatrics (2016). American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Childhood Sleep Guidelines, June 13, 2016. Retrieved on February 24, 2020 from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Childhood-Sleep-Guidelines.aspx

American Academy of Pediatrics (2018). Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need? Retrieved on February 24, 2020 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/Healthy-Sleep-Habits-How-Many-Hours-Does-Your-Child-Need.aspx


About the Author:

Dr. Angela Currie is a pediatric neuropsychologist at NESCA. She conducts neuropsychological and psychological evaluations out of our Londonderry, NH office. She specializes in the evaluation of anxious children and teens, working to tease apart the various factors lending to their stress, such as underlying learning, attentional, or emotional challenges. She particularly enjoys working with the seemingly “unmotivated” child, as well as children who have “flown under the radar” for years due to their desire to succeed.


To book an evaluation with Dr. Currie or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician in the referral line.


Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Londonderry, NH, Plainville, MA, and Newton, MA serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call (603) 818-8526.