What Should We Know About The New Developmental Guidelines?

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised the approved checklist of developmental milestones for infants and young children.

As the global leaders in paediatric health, these guidelines are used worldwide as a clear benchmark for our children’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. The revision has been a long time coming as the guidelines have not been updated since 2004. However, there are a few things parents should be aware of when it comes to these new guidelines.

What Do The New Guidelines Mean For Parents?

Neuro-developmental child therapist and founder of Cognikids, Ollwyn Moran says: "The new updates have been designed to empower parents to identify if their child is not reaching expected key milestones and minimise the 'wait and see' approach often used by health professionals."

She says that previously, streamlined milestone markers were reflective of what 50% of an age cohort could achieve, whereas now they’ve been revised so that 75% of an age group would be expected to have attained a specific skill.

Parents should be mindful of this distinctive change as Moran advises that this makes missed milestones much more obvious, allowing parents to confidently seek early intervention to try to catch any potential developmental delays or early signs of autism.

What Should Parents Be Worried About With The Changes?

Moran suggests, that while the recent changes to guidance on children’s developmental milestones are largely positive, there are some negatives parents should be aware of.

"How your child acts, moves, plays, speaks, and learns offer important clues about their development," she says. However, for example, Moran highlights that crawling is a key skill that has been removed from the guidance.

"Crawling is developmentally important to facilitate the creation of neural pathways between the left and right brain," she says. "The development of fine motor skills is now underrepresented in the new CDC developmental milestone guidelines."

How Can We Go Forward Appropriately With These Guidelines?

"Parents who have any concerns about their child missing key skills or social and emotional cues, should not be afraid to be their child’s advocate and seek advice from their GP or public health nurse," advises Moran.

"During the period from birth to age three, a child’s brain will experience the biggest period of development in their life. Documenting your baby's milestones such as their first smile, words, steps, and more can be very useful to health professionals, not to mention a lovely memento for you and your baby."

Moran recognises that a child's developmental milestones can be a cause of concern and confusion for parents and reminds us that the HSE has created a series of helpful guides to support parents during the developmental stages from 0-2 years and 2-5 years.

These developmental guidelines are now given to parents at public health nurse appointments, and they can also be downloaded from the HSE and MyChild.ie websites.

Geraldine Walsh

Mum of two Geraldine Walsh happily works from home as a freelance writer chatting about parenting, wellness and mental health.

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