Sitting

Sitting

Let’s talk about sitting!

Sitting is often one of the big milestones that many parents look forward to – that and walking of course, but we will save that for another day!

Children often are excited to sit as well, as it opens up a new world for them to watch and interact with.

What does it take to sit?

Just like with rolling, in order to sit there are some fundamental skills a child needs to be able to do to sit independently.

Sitting requires control of flexion (bending) and extension (straightening) movement patterns, which start to develop during rolling.  Sitting also requires automatic postural reactions, which are made up of righting reactions (keeping head on body), protective reactions (putting our hands out if we are falling) and equilibrium reactions (balance).  These reactions also start to be developed during rolling and continue to progress with sitting.

So you can see why it’s important for children to achieve milestones in the right order, as they help develop skills that they need to complete the next one!

How sitting develops

Sitting is one of the only milestones that a child typically learns before they are able to get in and out of that position.  Parents typically put a child into sitting position and the child starts in what is called Tripod sitting – this is when a childs legs are out, often in a “V” position or a ring position, with their hands planted on the ground between their legs.  Once the child gains better control, they will start to come into a more upright position with the back in a c-shape and the child will start taking their hands off the ground to play briefly.

The child will then work on shifting directions and their body weight in the c-sit to gain more balance and control.  C-sitting should then continue to improve to nice upright sitting, with the child able to reach in front of themselves for toys, rotate to look the sides and reach up for higher toys.

When should my child be sitting?

Children can typically begin to tripod sit (within a parents legs) around 4 months of age.  C-sitting for brief periods (with lots of tipping over!) should start to develop just after 5 months.

I recommend parents stay close by, but allow their child to tip in order to help children develop those important reactions mentioned above.

You may also try propping pillows just beside and behind them (or use a breastfeeding pillow) so that you can be in front of your child to play and engage.

By 6 months, children should be starting to sit independently (working towards that tall sitting) with only the occasional loss of balance.  This typically coincides with introducing solids, as a child should be able to maintain good sitting posture in a high chair to ensure safe eating.

If your child is not showing the building blocks of sitting by 6 months, call your local pediatric physiotherapist for a consult.  As always, if you are in Kitchener-Waterloo or Perth County, give me a shout!

Rolling

Rolling

A typical question for most physiotherapists who see children (and honestly one I think most moms ask themselves at one point or another) is ‘should my child be doing X by now?’  So, I thought I would take a few blog posts and write a little about each of the big gross motor milestones.

Let’s start with rolling, the same thing most kiddos will start with.  I know for my husband, that was when ours stopped being “a loaf of bread” and became a tiny human to him – suddenly they can move!

What does it take to roll?

Rolling can seem simple to us as adults but in reality is quite complex.  There are a LOT of components to rolling.  A child needs neck control, shoulder mobility and control, the beginning of core stability and, finally, hip and knee control.  Without all of these components, the child may not be able to initiate the movement, or they won’t be able to control the momentum.

To start learning all of those fundamental building blocks (especially the neck control and shoulder mobility/control), it takes practice, and that means TUMMY TIME!  Tummy time is so vital – more on this another day!

The start of rolling

The first part of rolling that parents typically see is when their child is on their back and they are able to roll to their side.  This usually starts to emerge around 2-3 months.  This either happens because they are looking at something to the side and up from them or because they put their feet in the air and they tipped over.

Then it progresses to a purposeful head movement and the body follows the head. When this starts, the body is quite stiff and tends to roll like a log, and the roll can be a bit uncontrolled sometimes, startling a baby.  But, as those fundamental skills improve with practice, we see rolling with rotation and bending through the trunk.

To roll from tummy to back, babies need to bring one knee up toward their chest and lift their pelvis slightly to start the roll.

When should my child roll?

Some children start rolling as early as 4 months, but a typically developing child should roll both directions by 6 months.

If your child is not showing the building blocks to rolling by 4 months or isn’t rolling by 6 months call your local pediatric physiotherapist!  As always, if you are in Kitchener-Waterloo or Perth County, give me a shout!

Private AND Public Therapy Services?

Private AND Public Therapy Services?

This is a big topic amongst a lot of my families and within the therapy community in general.  It’s a conversation I would say I have at least twice a month with a family, another physiotherapist or another therapist from a different discipline:

Can I use private therapy services even if I’m getting treatment through the public system?  Why would I see a private therapist if I’m being seen in the public setting?  Should I see one vs the other?

My answer is: do BOTH!

I encourage all of my families to call their local children’s treatment centre (in our area, you can get in touch with either KidsAbility or Thames Valley Children’s Treatment Centre) and put in a referral for services.  Parents can self-refer or a medical doctor/specialist can refer on behalf of a family.  This is a vital resource that can help get access to a variety of services, including therapy and, in the long term, planning transition to school.

The most important thing is to get the referral in early!  Some treatment centres only provide services until school age, at which time care is transferred into the school system.  As well, given the number of children requiring services, wait times for assessment and treatment can be lengthy.  The sooner you put in your referral, the better!

So, what is the role of the private therapist?

Treatment in the public system looks different for different families.  For some families it’s more consultation based – once every month, or six weeks to provide suggestions for exercises at home, providing equipment to increase a child’s function or ease of caregiving.  For other families, it may be blocks of treatment 2-3 times a year to work on specific goals.

This is where a private therapist comes in!  I have a number of families I have seen while they are waiting for public services and, in some instances, we are able to achieve their goals before they get their assessment.  For other families, a private therapist can provide more frequent, hands on treatment to supplement public services they may be receiving.

However, there are some guidelines we need to follow – the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario has a standard of care that lays out the expectations for a physiotherapist who is treating a client who is receiving care from another health care provider (including a physiotherapist).  The key is communication between the client/family and the other treating therapist.  We need to make sure the treatments are compatible, discuss how the therapists are dividing treatment and that there is nothing that interferes with the delivery of safe, quality care.

At the end of the day, I feel like the more help a child can get to accomplish their maximum potential, the better!  If a family can afford private physiotherapy (through benefits, bursaries or private pay) I think it can be a wonderful addition to public services.

The Truth About Toe Walking

The Truth About Toe Walking

Let’s talk about toe walking!  I recently went to a course solely focused on toe walking and was super excited to go.

Why?

Because I had been finding that these kiddos were hard to treat, I often wasn’t getting the gains I had been hoping to, and, when I did, they didn’t always last.

Let me tell you, this course changed EVERYTHING!

I will honestly admit I had been doing it wrong all along!  I had been taught in school (like most physios) that toe walking was the result of tight calf muscles.  So, we did things like stretches, night splints and surgery.  What we now know is that tight calves is the consequence, rather than the cause.

Idiopathic Toe Walking

It isn’t uncommon for children who toe walk to be diagnosed with idiopathic toe walking.  Idiopathic means that there was no known cause, but what has happened over the years is that is has morphed to people thinking there isn’t a cause.

NOT TRUE!

There is always a cause.

Toe walking is super inefficient, and the only reason your body will do it is to meet a greater need.

Toe walkers of today are different then the toe walkers of previous generations.  We are using more equipment with our kids than we used to and more supportive toys when learning to walk.  We have more kids with sensory needs and/or autism.  All of these things make for fundamentally different toe walkers.

Which means that the assessment and treatment of these kids needs to go beyond looking at the calves!

Wait and See

I have come across some families that tell me they were informed that toe walking is normal and not to worry, as they will grow out of it.  Toe walking is NOT a normal part of development – if your child has just learned to walk in the last week or two and you see them up on their toes and then they go back down to the soles of their feet, and this happens less and less, then you likely don’t need to be concerned.  But studies show almost all 18 month olds step with their heel first.

Did you know our balance strategies during walking are developed by 3 years old and the bones in our foot are solidified by 4 years old?

AND it is possible for walking on the toes to actually deform the foot bones!

It’s a challenge to make changes to both of these things after that point.

Lastly, our adult walking pattern is solidified by 7 years old, so how a kiddo walks at 7, is how they will walk as an adult.

That’s why earlier is better to try to address these issues BEFORE our foot, balance and walk are all solidified!

Toe Walking as a Marker

Earlier in this post I talked about how toe walking is inefficient and that the only reason someone will do it is to meet a greater need.  A new study has shown that there’s a correlation between speech difficulties, learning disabilities and toe walking.  This likely explains the underlying reason the child is toe walking in the first place.  Because children typically start walking before they have much speech, toe walking can be a marker for other concerns that haven’t yet emerged, but should be monitored.

Long Term Consequences 

You may be thinking, what is the big deal?  Is it THAT important that my kiddo is up on their toes – they are walking, right?!

Wrong!

There are long term consequences!

Some long term consequences of toe walking include increased frequency of injuries, knee instability, difficulty finding shoes and early arthritis and joint pain.

But what about those kids that can, when asked, put their heels down?  A recent study found their calf strength and overall endurance was significantly less then their peers, which means they have a harder time keeping up!

There is an interesting video/interview here talking about the long term repercussions of toe walking.

So, the long and short of it is that toe walking is a complex issue, much more than most physiotherapist and doctors ever thought.  Treating it is possible without drastic measure such as night splints, botox or surgery.  However, as with most things, the earlier the issue is addressed, the better the likelihood of results.  So, if you have concerns regarding your child’s toe walking, book an appointment with a physiotherapist who has training in toe walking and will take a wider approach than  simply looking at their calves!  If you are in my area feel free to reach out to me at erin@newhorizonsrehab.com or (519) 291-5402.

Plagiocephaly – The Flat Head Trend

Plagiocephaly – The Flat Head Trend

Okay ,so maybe trend is the wrong word…trend to me implies something cool or something we want, plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome, however, not so much.

What is plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is the asymmetrical flattening of the head, either at birth or just after birth.  Typically it is a flat spot on one side of the back of the head, with forehead, ear and face changes in severe cases (looking like a parallelogram from the top).  Less often, it is a flat spot at the centre back of the head, called brachycephaly, which causes a widening of the head and can elongate the top of the back of the skull.

Plagiocephaly can occur with or without torticollis. Congenital musclular torticollis, as it is called in infants, is a shortening of the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck, which results in the head being tilted and rotated to the side, leading to a flat spot on the back of the head. When there is no torticollis present, it is called positional plagiocephaly since it is as a result of positioning.

Whew…that is a lot of medical terms, let’s move on!

Research has uncovered some predisposing factors both during the gestation period and after birth. During the gestation period, obviously, the less space a baby has, the higher the odds are that a positional deformity can start.  Males, multiples, babies with large gestational size, first borns and breech position are all risk factors.  Once the baby is born, factors increasing the risk include limited tummy time, lower activity level, exclusive bottle feeding and sleeping on the back.

BUT wait!!!!  Aren’t babies supposed to sleep on their backs?!

YES!  But this is the same reason plagiocephaly is on the rise.  Over the last 24 years, since the Safe to Sleep initiative started (formerly Back to Sleep), in an effort to decrease Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, plagiocephaly has seen a dramatic rise.  Studies, the most recent from 2013, are now placing the incidence of plagiocephaly at approximately 48% of 7 week – 4 month olds.  I would argue that it has probably increased again over the last 5 years with the increase of container babies. (You may be reading that and thinking WHAT?!? Stay tuned to a future article about container babies!)

What can we do about it?

There are a variety of things you can do to help prevent and improve plagiocephaly, including positioning suggestions, tummy time and using a Mimos Pillow.  In severe cases a helmet therapy may be recommended.

The Mimos pillow is a pillow that is designed to spread out the amount of contact the head has on the pillow. This means that rather than have one condensed area of pressure it distributes it which can help prevent plagiocephaly.  If the flat spot is already present, the use of the pillow, in conjuction with physiotherapy, can help correct the head shape.  It is a class 1 medical device (meaning is safe to use), so no need to worry.  Check out Mimos Pillow for further information.

Why wait and see isn’t a good plan

I occasionally hear parents say they got told to wait and see and that it will improve – in very mild cases that may happen.  However, timeliness can be important!  Typically, we see the most change within the first 6 months after birth and, should helmet therapy be needed, you want to get started ASAP.  Once the skull fuses, there is little change to the shape.

If your child is one of the many that has plagiocephaly, I encourage you to reach out to your pediatric physiotherapist to assess for torticollis, take measurements to monitor the progress, give you positioning suggestions and measure you for a Mimos pillow (they sometimes even have discount codes available)!

Should you have any further questions feel free to contact me!