centers for disease control and prevention

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.


What Does Autism Look Like? Exploring the Differences among Girls and Boys

By | NESCA Notes 2019


By: Erin Gibbons, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Boys are still four times more likely be diagnosed with ASD; however, research indicates that the diagnosis is often missed in girls, especially those who have average intelligence and “milder” forms of ASD. To understand why ASD is more often missed in girls, let’s explore the differences between boys and girls with ASD. This discussion will focus on children with average to above average intelligence (about 50% of all children diagnosed with ASD).


Boys Girls
Poor impulse control, more acting out Likely to be quiet and withdrawn
Disruptive behaviors in the classroom setting Tend to be reserved and cooperative at school
Frequent repetitive motor behaviors that are directly observable Lower frequency of these motor behaviors
Lack of interest in imaginary play Very much engaged in imaginary play
Restricted interests may seem unusual – e.g., train schedules, maps, windmills Restricted interests may seem “age appropriate” – e.g., horses, unicorns, ballet
Trouble making friends Might have a few friends
Likely to exhibit angry outbursts when frustrated/anxious Likely to engage in self-harm or other behaviors that are not observed by others when frustrated/anxious
Lack of awareness of being different or not fitting in More motivated to fit in and “hide” social difficulties – might try to imitate the behavior of a peer that is perceived as popular


Due to these differences, the diagnosis of ASD is often missed in young girls. Adults might agree that a girl is “odd” or “quirky,” but dismiss these concerns because she has good eye contact, has some friends, and does not engage in hand flapping or other unusual behaviors. Unfortunately, other girls might be misdiagnosed, which could lead to ineffective or inappropriate treatment interventions. Most commonly, they might be misdiagnosed with ADHD or Anxiety Disorder.

In many cases, girls with ASD have increasing difficulties with social interactions as they get older and demands get higher. A young girl with ASD might be able to “get by” in social interactions but by the time she reaches adolescence, she is not able to navigate the intricacies of the social milieu. This can lead to social isolation and high risk of being bullied or rejected by peers.

Unfortunately, a missed diagnosis of ASD for a young girl can have long-reaching ramifications. She might experience depression, anxiety and/or low self-esteem, wondering why she doesn’t “fit in” and “feels different” from other girls. She might start to struggle in school or disconnect from activities that she used to enjoy. Moreover, missing the diagnosis in childhood means that she did not receive services to support her social and peer interaction skills during her formative years.

As always, when parents or other caregivers have concerns about a child’s development, it is important to seek an evaluation from a professional. And if the findings do not feel quite right, parents should never feel uncomfortable about seeking a second opinion.


About the Author: 

Erin Gibbons, Ph.D. is a pediatric neuropsychologist with expertise in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychological assessment of infants,

children, and adolescents presenting with developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorders. She has a particular interest in assessing students with complex medical histories and/or neurological impairments, including those who are cognitively delayed, nonverbal, or physically disabled. Dr. Gibbons joined NESCA in 2011 after completing a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. She particularly enjoys working with young children, especially those who are transitioning from Early Intervention into preschool. Having been trained in administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Dr. Gibbons has experience diagnosing autism spectrum disorders in children aged 12 months and above.


If you are interested in booking an evaluation with Dr. Gibbons or another NESCA neuropsychologist, please fill out and submit our online intake form


Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and 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.