Tip toe walking
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE:
- children walking on their tip toes
- Children have enlarged calf muscles
- Children have tight instep muscles
WHY IT OCCURS:
These children often have difficulties with sensory processing, specifically with their PROPRIOCEPTION sense. This is the senses that helps us know where our body parts are without looking at them. It helps us coordinate our bodies for all tasks day to day. When a child walks on their tip toes the calf and instep muscles tighten, supporting the child’s awareness of their legs and feet in order to control and coordinate movement to walk.
Another reason is that they could actually be sensitive to touch, and placing their whole foot on textured ground could be far too overwhelming for their senses.
It is for you to know your child and decide which of the above is true for your child. A simple way would be seeing if they avoid or seek certain rough textures on the sole of their foot.
It could also be an underlying diagnosis, such as muscular dystrophy. It’s a genetic disorder where the muscle tissue is destroyed and replaced by fat. The calf muscles are often the first to be effected. So children with muscular dystrophy will toe walk in an effort to stabilize, due to the decreased strength. Any condition that results in an abnormal increase in muscle tone will also result in toe walking. A common one with that would be cerebral palsy.
Sometimes children choose to tiptoe walk. This is called idiopathic toe walking. Over time, their muscles shorten making it harder to break the habit, causing a vicious cycle.
HOW CAN I HELP:
- [all] Deep pressure massage in the instep and back of legs. This will help release the right muscles that can cause severe issues, sometimes resulting in surgery.
- [sensory seeking] Offer rough/spikey textures mats to walk on. The hard texture allows the child needed high levels of feedback through their nerve endings in order to increase awareness of their limbs.
- [sensory seeking] Textured insoles places inside the shoes also have had some successes in allowing necessary feedback.
- [all] It is also worth noting that prescribed supportive shoes would benefit and help avoid long term issues.
- [sensory defensive] silk socks or seem less socks might help your child cope with the sensation. We also try wearing the socks inside out so the seem is not in contact with their bodies. Clothes in general may also be an issue.
- [sensory defensive] I have found that if our sensory children are in a low arousal environment they are more willing to accept input from touch. Maybe ear defenders or reduced visuals may help their heightened sensory levels.
- [medical or other] always seek advice from your GP and be referred for a second opinion on the cause for your child.
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