Nobody tells you how long you will have to wait until your little one can walk. There are some typically-developing children who don’t walk until they are two. Our daughter is two and a half and she can’t walk yet. She walks supported by us and her smile shows how pleased she is that she has achieved this.
It might be surprising to know that there are no two children with Down’s Syndrome the same. They all develop at their own rates and some of Trudy’s little friends have been walking for a while now. What is true is that they all develop in their own time, much like all children. Trudy has been a serious bum-shuffler for a while now and has been quite content with it. She has Patrick knocking her over all the time so being on her bottom is as stable as she is going to get! She can also see in front of her and can carry most things while on the go. For her, it is pretty effective and she moves fast! It is also clear to us that Trudy prioritises communication and interaction over gross motor skills. At the moment, she is happy to sit for hours as long as she has a smiling, communicating face in front of her.
One of the gems of advice we have received from our physiotherapist is that parents are often so eager to see their child walk when it is not always the most important milestone to reach. Most children with development delay learn to walk, unless there are physical limitations. Children do not develop everything at the same rate and some things are better put to one side while something else is being worked on.
We have had access to a physiotherapist since Trudy was about 6 months old. We initially saw somebody at a local group for 0-5s. Various therapists would come along to this and talk about how their services work. This was a great way to get to know an area that I just didn’t know anything about. We were then referred to our own physiotherapist through our Health Visitor. She focused on Trudy’s gross motor skills and all the steps she would need to take to get to standing. What we have learned is that children with developmental delay and hypotonia like Trudy will work much harder at each step than other children and often stay at one stage for a lot longer (see ‘baby steps’ post). I was once telling Trudy not to be so lazy and our physiotherapist said that she wasn’t being lazy, she was hypotonic. It is a lot harder to get to standing when your muscle tone is low.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of exercises and tips to encourage your little one to get to the next step. Trudy is wearing orthopoedic shoes called Piedro boots which support her ankles and help her to stand. These were given to us by our physiotherapist. We have a series of ‘developmental activities’ for each stage which encouraged Trudy to get from lying to sitting and from sitting to kneeling and eventually from kneeling to standing. With a little support and advice from professionals, Trudy is making great progress.