CDC Lowers Bar for Children’s Speech Development

CDC Lowers Bar for Children’s Speech Development

CDC Lowers Bar for Children’s Speech Development

The CDC is covering their tracks again. On Monday we found out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been hiding data from the public. Now we learn that they’ve updated their recommendations on communication development in very children. As if anyone should trust them there, either.


What the CDC Changed

It sounds small, really. The CDC added two milestones to advise how well a child is learning to speak: one for 15 months, the other for 30 months. But it’s the 30-month milestone that makes the speech pathologist in me go huh?

Formerly children were expected to use a minimum of 50 words at 24 months. If they didn’t, red flags went up, and often these kiddos went to a speech pathologist for evaluation. A comprehensive evaluation could also examine hearing, motor, visual, and social skills, too. It’s also important to remember that just because a child went through an evaluation didn’t mean they started therapy, however.

But the CDC quietly changed that age recommendation. Now they’ve raised the age for concern from 24 months to 30 months.


Prior Milestones for Speech Development

Mayo Clinic has listed these communication skills a child should have by 24 months:

“By the end of 24 months, your child might:

  • Use simple phrases, such as “more milk”
  • Ask one- to two-word questions, such as “Go bye-bye?”
  • Follow simple commands and understand simple questions
  • Speak about 50 or more words
  • Speak well enough to be understood at least half the time by you or other primary caregivers”

However, speech pathologists use milestones which are more in-depth. Here’s one simple chart designed for parents of two-year-olds:

CDC/speech milestones

Credit: SuperDuper Publications.

But now the CDC has lowered the bar for children of 30 months — halfway between two and three years old. They now say the 50-word minimum can be applied to a two-and-a-half year old. In other words, they’re recommending that if a child is using less than 50 words on their second birthday, parents should wait another six months before taking their little crumb-cruncher to a speech pathologist. And any parent knows that six months in the lifetime of a baby or toddler is an enormous amount of time — time that may be wasted.


Why Didn’t the CDC Consult Speech Pathologists?

Considering that speech pathologists are the professionals who have the greatest knowledge about communication development, delays, and disorders, you’d think the CDC would’ve consulted them. But no. They used the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, instead. What’s more, they consulted an “expert working group” from the AAP to revise the developmental standards, a group called Learn the Signs. Act Early. And guess who funded this “expert working group?” Bingo — the CDC.

Meanwhile, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association was blindsided by the new guidelines — not to mention insulted that the CDC didn’t consult them. At their Facebook page, ASHA posted a letter to its members:

“Dear ASHA Members:
ASHA is in the process of analyzing the recent revisions to the developmental milestones used in the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. initiative. This process includes a comprehensive comparison of the previous vs. new guidelines, as well as a comparison to ASHA-specified milestones. ASHA is also conducting an extensive review of published scientific literature.
ASHA has reached out to CDC, expressing its concern about inconsistencies and urging the agency to utilize the expertise of SLPs when making changes to developmental milestones in speech, language, feeding, and social communication. In general, ASHA is supportive of efforts to help identify children earlier, but the milestones presented to parents must be evidence-based in order for families to make well-informed decisions about their children’s care.”
As of this writing, ASHA has not responded with their own statement.


Kids’ Speech Problems On the Rise

Meanwhile, speech pathologists in the field are seeing an alarming rise of speech delays among very young children. Like this clinical director from Palm Beach, Florida:

And she’s not the only one, either.

Horowitz also tweeted this comment from his SLP sister:

“These types of articulation errors are usually seen with children who have neurological impairments or syndromes with associated speech and language impairments. I’ve never had so many referrals in my life for young healthy children with such severe articulation impairments.”

She’s talking about “healthy children,” too. What about kids on the autism spectrum, who have difficulty understanding facial expressions? Or babies born prematurely, who are at risk for developmental delays? There are many other medical issues which put kids at risk for communication delays, too. Now add in forced masking, as well as isolation from other humans, and you have a perfect storm for many children.


CDC Is Covering for Its Failures

Bottom line: the CDC is using these new guidelines to cover for its failures with its Covid recommendations. They know that their rules for isolation and masking have impaired communication development for thousands of kids. So now they’ve lowered the bar, and in turn, can cite lower numbers of speech delays and disorders as a result. To accomplish this, the CDC used its select handmaidens in the AAP. They failed to consult the professionals who know the most about kids and their speech development.

The CDC didn’t use create these new guidelines to further best practices in science. They’re using them to cover their posteriors, instead.


Welcome, Instapundit readers! 

Featured image: Sac State/flickr/cropped/CC BY-NC 2.0.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!


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