Toe Walking And Orthopedic Intervention: What You Should Know

For many parents, the earliest indication that their child may be on the autism spectrum comes after they learn to walk. Toe walking is a common phenomenon among children on the spectrum, but it's also a concern for orthopedic specialists. As the parent of a child on the spectrum who's walking on their toes, it's important for you to understand the basics of your orthopedist's concerns. Here's a look at what you need to know.

Why Is Toe Walking A Concern?

The first step toward understanding why your child should see an orthopedic professional is understanding why toe walking is such a concern. You may not think anything of it, but the truth is that persistent toe walking can lead to some physical development issues.

When your child walks on their toes, their feet aren't flat, so the Achille's tendon doesn't stretch to the proper length. Repeated toe walking keeps that tendon from stretching out the way that it's supposed to, which can actually cause it to atrophy and not grow to the length that it should. Ultimately, this can make it nearly impossible, and very painful, for your child to properly flatten their foot.

What Can Be Done To Prevent Or Treat Complications?

Understanding why toe walking is a concern is the first step. However, you still need to be prepared to address the problem. Your orthopedic specialist can be a valuable resource for this. Not only can he or she recommend important physical therapy tasks to do at home with your child, but an orthopedic specialist can also fit your child for a brace or boot that forces their foot to stay in the proper position.

Braces and casts come in a variety of styles, including ones that are only worn at night as well as ones designed to be worn during the day. Remember that, even if your little one doesn't like the brace, it's important that you reinforce its use. This will be vital to ensuring your child's comfortable and safe mobility in the long run.

If your child's tendon has already started to develop improperly, an orthopedic specialist can also recommend the proper treatment. This may mean needing more extensive physical therapy to encourage growth or even surgery to put a notch in the tendon so that it lengthens.

Although toe walking is common when first learning to walk, most children don't persist with it. If your child has retained the toe walking habit, talk with an orthopedics specialist near you to start orthopedic treatment