AAP Updates Child Development Milestones

You may have heard that the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated their child development milestones. Those milestones — when kids are expected to crawl, speak, walk, and so on — are in important part of your child’s well child appointments. Your pediatrician will check and see whether your son or daughter has met the milestones. If not, you can have a conversation about whether your child might need extra help and support.

These milestones have been updated for the first time in 20 years.

Did expectations change?

Some media coverage has suggested that we now have lower expectations for our kids. Two thirds of the milestones were in fact moved to older ages. Does this mean that kids used to be expected to talk and walk earlier?

In fact, there was a big change, but it wasn’t a lowering of expectations. Previously, the average or median age for milestones was given. That is the age at which half of kids usually meet the milestone. Now, milestones are identified at the point at which 75% or more of kids will have met them.

For example, about half of children walk at 12 months. Walking was a 12 month milestone. Now, walking without help is an 18 month milestone. This is the age at which 75% of children can walk without help.

Why make the change?

The main reason for the change was not to relax expectations. It was to avoid taking a “wait and see” attitude as frequently as doctors did in the past.

After all, if only half of children walk by 12 months, it doesn’t make sense to worry that your child hasn’t done so. Pediatricians might mention the milestone, but would not recommend taking any action.

Families often found this confusing. They might worry unnecessarily, but they also might not follow up once they had been told not to worry. Identifying developmental delays as early as possible is one way to make sure that children get the help they need. 

Now, there is a milestones list to go with each doctor visit from 2 months on. 

Download a PDF file of the list, an online tool, or an app to track the milestones. If you are concerned about your child’s development, have a conversation with your pediatrician.