Autistic kids may suffer from problems with their legs and feet if they have gait or walking issues. For example, some kids with autism will walk on their tip-toes a lot of the time. This habit can ultimately affect muscle and joint flexibility and, if this happens, you may be advised to see a podiatrist. What can a podiatrist do to help fix toe-walking problems?
Assessing Tip-Toe Habits
There may not be an obvious reason why your child toe walks; it simply happens with some autistic kids. Sometimes, it's just a habit that your child doesn't grow out of, and sometimes it is caused by sensitivity issues when a child doesn't want to place the whole foot on the ground.
A podiatrist will take a good look at how your child walks and see if there is an identifiable physical reason behind the habit, such as shortened muscles or pain. Even if toe-walking seems to have no cause, your podiatrist may be able to help your child learn how to walk more effectively and to deal with any physical problems that might arise.
Training Your Child Not to Toe-Walk
You can't simply tell an autistic child to stop walking on tip-toe. Kids may not realise they do this, or they may like the habit. Your podiatrist may, therefore, recommend that you train your child out of the habit in other ways.
For example, orthotic inserts can be a good way to discourage children from toe-walking. These insoles can change walking habits by making it hard to do the wrong things and easier to do the right things. So, for example, wearing an orthotic that raises the heel encourages the wearer to put weight on the heel rather than the toes.
Checking Your Child's Shoes
Some autistic kids have sensitivity issues with their feet. They may, for example, not like walking on certain surfaces or may not like wearing certain types of shoe. A podiatrist can evaluate your child's footwear to check if it is fit for purpose. If your child has problems wearing certain types of shoes, the podiatrist may also be able to make recommendations to help your child feel more comfortable with their footwear. If shoes are a contributing factor to toe-walking, this advice may help solve the problem.
Creating Exercise and Stretching Programs
Your podiatrist may also recommend that your child does certain exercises or stretches to help relieve the pressure that toe-walking can have on the feet and legs. These exercises may also be used to help train your child into walking correctly. For example, your podiatrist may encourage your child to heel walk as part of an exercise program.
Before you choose a local podiatrist, you may way want to talk to a few clinics to try to find one that has experience of dealing with autistic kids. You're far more likely to see good results, especially if you need to persuade your child to wear orthotics or to agree to exercises, if your podiatrist understands how to communicate with autistic children.