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Concerns as CDC ‘quietly’ moves back developmental milestones for young children

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has changed its developmental milestones for children for the first time in 20 years, sparking concern among some experts.

The objective of the milestones set by the national public health agency of the United States is to help parents of children spot developmental delays sooner. Some experts, as well as concerned parents, have raised the alarm as the new guidelines ‘quietly’ pushed back certain benchmarks.

“Instead of highlighting the harmful effects [masks] & lockdowns have had on children, the CDC just lowered the bar for milestones,” one tweet, liked over 25,000 times, read.

 

Another online commentary ventured: “It’s easier to change the expectations than consider why children may not be reaching the milestones as typically expected. Why?”

 

Mother of four Jacequeline Vaughn told KOLD news that she was concerned about the news, stating: “With all the developments we have in the medical field, in everything, it feels we should be farther ahead instead of going backwards.” The media outlet reports that Vaugh and her son’s speech pathologist, Tamra Mullen, are worried because the new guidelines list fewer milestones as goals for children. 

Mullen said: “The new milestones just completely miss the mark.” In the guidance, some speech and language goals are delayed to older ages. For instance, she said, a one-year-old should be able to point out two body parts when asked but the CDC has pushed this skill back to two-year-olds. Mullen added that a two-year-old should be able to say 50 words, however the milestone has shifted, and is now for a two-and-a-half-year-old.

She said that the difference in children over the course of Covid lockdowns (resulting in a lack of important social interaction) in the last two years is noticeable.

“I have noticed changes in the past couple of years,” she said. “Kids who are not getting the same social opportunities that they are used to.”

Mullen said the changes coincide with a time when many parents are concerned by how the Covid crisis may have had a detrimental impact on development through reduced social interactions and masks blocking important visual cues.

“We really need to look at what is typical rather than what is disordered,” Mullen said.

In response to the CDC’s changes, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) released a statement, saying said it was concerned about the inconsistencies in the new guidance and urged the CDC to listen to speech language therapists when making changes, many of whom are worried children are falling behind.

In January, Gript reported that masking children led to a 364% increase in infant referrals. That statistic came from an American speech therapist who claimed that her clinic had witnessed the unprecedented surge in patient referrals of babies and toddlers due to the wearing of face coverings. 

The anxiety induced by Covid, and the measures enacted to deal with it, which have included masking children and locking down schools, has caused “crippling anxiety” in children, Thade Andy wrote for Gript earlier this year. 

“Outside of the front page, studies are coming in thick showing that the social effects of lockdown are severe. One study review showed a doubling of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents,” he wrote.

“A longitudinal neurodevelopment study found that childhood cognitive scores fell dramatically between 2020 and 2021. It concluded that “the environmental changes associated COVID-19 pandemic is significantly and negatively affecting infant and child development.” The study’s authors found that, for infants, cognitive scores were “significantly reduced during the pandemic by 27 to 37 points (or almost two full standard deviations).”

“Two standard deviations is a big deal. It’s a massive deal.”

Last week, as Ireland moved to remove remaining restrictions, John McGuirk wrote that it was “beyond time” to end the masking of children. 

“[…] There is, and has always been, a cost to making children, especially young children, wear masks,” Mr McGuirk wrote. “At that age, we develop rapidly, learn social cues, learn how to read facial expressions, and so on. We go to school every day, which is not a pleasant experience for every child to begin with. It remains Government policy that children in classrooms should wear a mask for the whole of every schoolday.

“A policy like that needs strong evidence that it is providing a real health benefit. That evidence simply does not exist.

“There is not one study – not one – anywhere in the world which shows that facemask wearing by children in schools meaningfully reduces covid infection levels. There are some, from the USA, which show an ultra-marginal benefit, and others which show no benefit at all. But there is no study which can be pointed to which shows a significant fall in infection.”

The regulation requiring facemasks in Irish schools was finally lifted this week.

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