Podiatry for Children with ASD [Updated for 2024]

Podiatry and Children with ASD

As podiatrists we see many children with ASD every week. 

Some require help with gait problems like toe walking or balance difficulties, whilst some get a lot of ingrown toenails or other skin and nail problems.

When dealing with these children we are always very sensitive to their individual needs, not just from a podiatry perspective but a sensory and personality one as well.

 

What is ASD?

Here is what Qld Health has to say in definition of ASD in Children on their website:  https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/referral-guideline-autism-spectrum-disorder/

  • “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a collective term for the neurodevelopmental disorders previously known as autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome.
  • These conditions cause challenges with communication, social interaction, and behaviour, and affect 1 in 100 children worldwide.
  • Learning, thinking, and problem solving abilities can range from gifted to severely challenged.
  • Onset is before aged 3 years, although some children show early signs in the first few months.
  • Some causes of ASD include genetic, fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome, untreated phenylketonuria, antenatal and postnatal complications.
  • There is no link between ASD and immunisations.”

ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.

It can cause a wide range of symptoms, from difficulty with eye contact and social interaction to repetitive behaviours and Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as difficulties with and changes to gait.

ASD is a lifelong condition, but with early intervention and treatment, many people  are able to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Some of the conditions associated with ASD that podiatrists can help with include:

  • Toe walking,
  • Reluctance to stand, walk or run,
  • Balance difficulties,
  • Flat feet,
  • Sensory processing disorder – makes it difficult for children to tolerate touching certain materials. 

By working closely with the child’s other health care providers, podiatrists can help ensure that the child with ASD receives the best possible care.

 

A Friendly, Caring Environment.

At Dynamic Podiatry we are proud of the friendly, welcoming and understanding environment that we have been able to create through having experienced, empathetic podiatrists and reception staff.

The team at Dynamic Podiatry L-R Sarah, Matt, and Michaela

It is important that children with ASD can feel safe, and able to express themselves.

We love caring for children with ASD as we love contributing to, and watching them develop their walking and running gait.

What Can Podiatrists Do For Children With ASD?

Children with ASD often have problems with their feet and ankles.

Some of the common problems that podiatrists help with in children with ASD are sensation issues, such as not being able to feel pain in the feet; and alignment issues, such as toe walking (tip-toeing) or flat feet.

By using different materials in different areas of the feet, we often can improve the child’s walking and running gait.

Treatment may include things like custom orthotics and physical therapy.

By working with a podiatrist, children with ASD can get the treatment they need to improve their walking, running and playing.

 

Toe Walking

Podiatrists can help to assess a child who is toe walking, work out the cause and then advise on and implement a treatment plan.

Often attributed to immaturity of the vestibular system, toe walking is very common in children with ASD.

Problem which arise from toe walking include fatigue and pain in their calf muscles, which are constantly working hard to keep them on their toes.

Podiatrists can try different types of materials to help stimulate the child to placing their heels on the floor when they walk. This may come in the form of simple felt or other soft materials, and in some cases gait plates or custom orthotics.

A child walking on the tips of their toes

Reluctance to Walk

A child sitting on the ground screaming because she doesn't want to walk.

Another gait issue that we see in children with ASD is a reluctance to walk at all.

This can be particularly worrying for the parents as they want their child to be able to keep up with other children, and to develop the skills they’ll need in adulthood.

We have several different treatment methods to encourage your child to walk by making it less stressful for them to weight bear.

Flat Feet

A lot of children with ASD will have flatter feet than most children.

Often this may not be a problem. But when it causes them pain in their legs or general fatigue after walking, it is worth getting some professional help.

A child with quite flat feet

Our experienced podiatrists will assess whether the condition is within the usual developmental range, or if there is something requiring intervention.

Treatments can include:

  • footwear advice, 
  • shoe padding,
  • custom foot orthotics.

We're Here to Help

Dynamic Podiatry is here to help you and your children. By working with children with ASD our podiatrists can help them to have a more rounded life.

We can help with many gait problems including the main three that I have talked about above (toe walking, reluctance to walk, and flat feet).

If you think your child could benefit from our services please call 3351 8878.

Or book online using the button below.

The Dynamic Podiatry logo orange and navy with a foot in the "D"