We have a young man who has been working on walking his whole life. Recently due to growth spurts and other factors, he’s become more fearful of falling and having even more trouble with his balance when he walks. Using a walker has not been something he is interested in, and his parents have been reluctant as well. However, due to the challenges he’s been having with walking, his parents are more open to the idea, and we have slowly been introducing it and talking up the benefits so that he is interested as well.
Well I was lucky enough to work with him the other day. I mainly do coverage these days so I always joke that I get to be the fun aunt that swoops in and ‘breaks all the rules’ which the kids find hysterical. They love to think they are pulling a fast one on their therapist, even though we are really working on the plan of care that their therapist established! So he and I established a plan where we were going to tell everyone we were going on a bike ride but really ‘escape’ with the walker! I know it sounds silly but he loved the idea of sneaking out and having everyone think he was doing something else. Seriously, it’s the little things that motivate someone.
So he and I got to walk with a walker for an extended period of time where I didn’t have to have my hands on him, other than to get back on a straight path (we had all wheels locked so they couldn’t turn to decrease the variable he had to control at this time). He navigated slight inclines and declines where he had to control what his body was doing. I was close by in case he needed help but he had to respond and react (he got to work on his feedforward and feedback control). He was focusing on his walking and where he was going and not constantly looking for someone to grab onto and be fearful of falling.
What’s great about this is he got to work on his balance and responses in a controlled way. When he is constantly looking to grab onto something out of fear, he is inhibiting his balance reactions. Think about it, if you feel off balance and your first instinct is to grab support, your body isn’t responding to the change in position to get back to an upright position. He also was moving without someone holding on to him which is really important for development.
What we found most interesting is what we saw immediately after and what the family reported from the next day. His walking without a walker improved. He was more stable and was more in control of his movements. This is related to the reasons above. He got a chance to practice his feedforward and feedback control with changing conditions and wasn’t worried about who or what he was going to grab onto.
We don’t know where this will go, but we are excited that he and the family are seeing a benefit to using a walker! Our goal is always to help someone be as independent as they can.
Has anyone else had this experience with something like this?