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I’ve gone back and forth sharing this adventure with y’all – it’s pretty personal – but ultimately decided that this is Busy Mom’s Helper, meaning we HELP each other through this whole parenting thing. If any of you have children who are toe walkers and aren’t sure what to do, maybe our story will give you some guidance. Today I’m sharing Our Toe Walking Journey, from when we decided it was a problem, to now being smack in the middle of getting things corrected.
First of all, a lot of little kids walk on their toes – it’s just that most outgrow it. When one of my boys, Thor, was getting older but STILL walking on his toes (constantly, not just every now and then), we kept wondering if it was a problem. So many people kept telling us ‘oh, he’ll grow out of it, don’t worry’ and we listened – for too long. You see, we let it get to the point that his muscles, tendons and ligaments were trained and grew to facilitate his toe walking – meaning he COULD NOT walk flat foot, or heel first. He couldn’t even make an ‘L’ (90 degree angle) because he’d walked on his toes constantly for so long! When we finally realized this, around when he turned 8, we decided that we had to look into it more – and I’m so glad we did!
You may be thinking ‘why is toe walking a problem’? Walking like that for too long, especially as they hit puberty or adulthood, can actually really mess with not only their legs and feet, but also their hips and spine. It can cause life-long problems, so it’s important to get it taken care of. Please remember that I’m NOT a doctor, and you should always seek the counsel of licensed medical professionals when making decisions like these.
Side note – Thor does have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder), so things like bouncing are a type of physical input that he really likes and – in a way – needs. That’s one reason we believe he kept walking on his toes, so he could get the sensory input just by walking. It’s important to understand reasons WHY your child may be toe walking longer than most, so just something to keep in mind.
Our pediatrician referred us to the specialists at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, and they set up an appointment for us shortly after. At Thor’s first visit, they did measurements (seeing how far his feet could bend, the angles, etc.) and even did videos of him walking so they could accurately track everything. They then scheduled us an appointment with the neurology department, and their doctor who specializes in toe walking problems. She was fantastic, and very informative. We actually learned that there COULD be underlying problems also contributing to the toe walking, and we needed to rule those out before any treatment. If we treated the wrong way or for the wrong thing, it wouldn’t help in the long run. Since Thor is a twin, he had a higher chance of having scarring on his brain, which could be a problem, and also he has a sacral dimple. About 3-8% of the population have a sacral dimple (a small, shallow indentation in the small of the back, just above their bottom), and a small percentage of THOSE could mean spinal abnormalities.
To rule that and the brain scarring out, we had to schedule an MRI – and because they were looking at two major things (spine and brain), it would be 90 minutes. Not many 8 year olds can lay completely still for that long, especially in a large machine (even though they decorated it like a spaceship to help the kiddos), so he would have to be put under anesthesia. Needless to say, this momma was TERRIFIED! There’s always risks when doing anesthesia, especially for kids – but we knew there wasn’t another way to get this figured out. We scheduled his MRI (it can have a decent wait, since it’s not a super rushed issue) for a couple of months later.