When Should You Consider Orthotics for Your Child
I had wondered about the cute little braces I saw on so many of our social media friends as they were learning to walk. I noted the parents who were claiming that the braces were huge in helping their little ones stabilize and learn to walk when my guy couldn’t even yet stand up. But frankly, I wasn’t sure if we should consider using orthotics so I began asking around about these miniature braces that were being touted as a helpful tool to get my child standing, cruising, and walking. So, when should you consider orthotics for your child?
As is common with Down Syndrome, hypotonia, more commonly known low muscle tone, can and does play a big role in the mobility of our children. Often children with Down Syndrome crawl, stand, cruise and walk later than their typically developing peers and that is often due to low muscle tone. But back to that question, when should you consider orthotics for your child? The short answer is, as soon as you see a problem.
Let me clarify here, by problem I mean something that may hinder your child’s progress. For example, Cedar has a tendency to pronate his ankles inward when he stands, something that wasn’t initially obvious until he began pulling to stand and holding onto furniture in the standing position.
When the ankle and foot does this it hinders the child’s ability to properly walk, cruise and stand. It can also lead to further delays in walking as well as an abnormal walking pattern that can later cause problems with body alignment and even back problems if left untreated.
I also noticed that Cedar would often lock his knees while standing and rock back on his heels. Our physical therapist let me in on the reason behind this…due to his poor tone Cedar is trying hard to figure out how to remain standing and it is less work to lock your legs than to continue balancing, but this is not good for future mobility.
In seeing all of these things I began asking our physical therapist for her thoughts on these braces. She initially said that some children benefit greatly while others wind up walking fine without the added support. So, we waited a bit. However, I kept seeing more of our online friends turning up with these braces and I wondered if getting Cedar some would help him. That is when I not only further considered it but really had to go into full-on advocate mode because with some insurance providers (like ours) it can be a bit tricky to navigate the process of obtaining braces
We finally did end up navigating the whole process and were able to secure a fantastic orthotist who took countless measurements of Cedar’s feet to ensure that the custom made products we would be getting from Surestep would be exactly what he needed. We initially had the choice between Surestep and another brand called Dafo but when I viewed the products in our Orthotist’s office I liked that the Surestep brand was a hard brace but seemed less cumbersome and seemed to allow Cedar’s foot to still have more flexibility and mobility than the Dafo would. Being that I hope to eventually get Cedar to where he does not need bracing I thought that taking the “less is more” approach was going to be a good fit for us.
I have noticed improvements now that Cedar is using these orthotics as he is able to step with assistance and cruise better and for longer periods when he is wearing his AFO’s versus when he is not. I have read quite a bit about how important it is for children with any time of cognitive disability to be able to interact with their environment in as much of an age-appropriate way as possible and for Cedar this means interacting in a way that allows him to be upright, standing.
What about your child? When Should you consider using orthotics?
- If your child pronates while standing
- If your physical therapist suggests it
- If your child is not progressing past pulling to stand or standing while holding onto something
- If you feel that your child would benefit from an evaluation for orthotics
The orthotics we use for Cedar are custom designed for his feet by Surestep and are not comparable to an “off the shelf” type of orthotic where the child is not custom fit. These are only available by prescription which can usually come from either your physical therapist, pediatrician or a specialist.
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We have seen great improvements for Cedar, have you gotten orthotics and seen an improvement in your child too? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.