Thirty (20 boys and 10 girls) of the otherwise healthy children were current toe-walkers. That represented about 2 percent of all the children. Another 40 children (22 boys and 18 girls) had previously walked on their toes. That means about 5 percent of the county's 5.5-year-old children had a history of toe-walking.
Most of the children, but not all, started walking on their toes. Eleven children developed toe-walking during their first year of walking, according to the study.
Of the 17 children with developmental delays or neuropsychiatric disorders, seven boys (41 percent) had a history of toe-walking. About half of these children started walking on their toes. In two children, toe-walking started during the first year of walking, and one youngster started toe-walking during the second year of walking, the researchers found.
Left untreated, toe-walking can cause damage to the structures in the legs, ankles and heels. It can also create a social stigma, according to the study authors.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Pete Richel, chief of pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., said: "Although many of these cases are labeled idiopathic, which means without a known cause, as clinicians and parents, I think we have to consider whether there is an organic cause that may be so subtle it's not always evident." He said some toe-walking children may have sensory issues that don't meet the level for diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, but still might benefit from treatment.
Occupational therapist Chantell D'Avignon, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., added that "every child is different and every treatment is different, but early intervention is key. The brain from zero to 3 years old is much more pliable."
Colleen Harper, a physical therapist and director of developmental, rehabilitative and child life services at La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago, agreed that early treatment is impor
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