Hand Flapping: Should I Be Worried Does It Only Happen With Autism
As a parent, you have an Eagle eye for any new behavior that your child starts doing. If that behavior is hand flapping, youve come to the right place.
Hand flapping is a form of stimming that kids do to calm down, self-soothe, or regulate their bodies. Its common when kids are excited, nervous, anxious, or having any other type of high emotion state. It can also become a habit.;
Hand flapping or, arm flapping, has become one of the more popularly recognized signs of autism. As with any concept that becomes well known, we have to deal with both the positives and negatives of it.
We also have to deal with the confusion.
In one sense, its great that the potential signs of autism are becoming more widely known.
Three cheers for autism awareness!
In another sense, assuming that hand flapping=autism is too simplistic and ignores the nuances behind the behavior. In all the confusion, the #1 question becomes when should I worry?
So, youre a parent of a child and you see them starting to flap their hands. Given everything youve heard about hand flapping from the media and greater society, you start to panic.
What does this mean?
Lets dig in to what hand flapping is and whether your should be worried.
As we move forward, please keep in mind that this is general information and is not specific to your own kiddo. If you have any concerns or questions about your childs unique situation, please reach out to their pediatrician or occupational therapist.
Anxiety And Hand Flapping
Remember that hand flapping is a self-soothing behavior? Well, heres where the literal soothing comes in.;
You may notice that hand flapping increases when your child is nervous, anxious, or uncomfortable. Hand flapping makes them feel better.
If youve ever been nervous before a doctors appointment and noticed your legs jumping up and down, you know what I mean. Its physically uncomfortable to stop your legs from bouncing all over the place.;
In the same way that your body needs to release excitement when it gets worked up, it also needs to release tension when its anxious.
In the spirit of everyones favorite ear worm, hand flapping is a way to let it go.
Toe Walking In Adults
While doctors usually associate toe walking with children, its possible the condition can affect adults. Sometimes, an adult may have always toe walked and corrective measures were ineffective.
Other times, you might start toe walking in adulthood. This could be idiopathic or due to various conditions that can affect the feet. Examples include:
If you have started toe walking, but didnt as a child, talk to your doctor about potential underlying causes.
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Why Is It Important To Address Idiopathic Toe Walking Early
Between the ages of 12-18 months, most typically developing children will learn to walk independently.; Your child learns to master walking by repeatedly practicing walking, refining and maturing their walking pattern over time.; At a neurological level, as children are mastering walking, their brains are creating and refining pathways and connections in the brain.; These pathways are laid down in response to what the child is experiencing and practicing.; So if your child is learning to consistently walk on their toes, this will reinforce the sensory and motor connections that they are creating at a neurological level.; For your child with idiopathic toe walking walking on their toes becomes normal for them.
Consider this in reverse:; I am assuming you walk using a typical heel-toe pattern.; You have walked like this your entire life.; What if someone suddenly asked you to walk on your toes?; You are able to do this when asked.; But what if they told you that you have to walk like this all the time now?; Can you imagine how hard it would be to do this?
For children with idiopathic toe walking, walking on flat feet does not feel normal.; And because of the changes at a neurological level, changing that habit of walking on their toes takes a lot of work if it is not addressed early, before the habits are ingrained into their brain as their normal way of moving.
Why It’s Normal For Children To Tiptoe Before They Turn Three
In the uterus, our precious little buns curl themselves into a tight little ball. Their heels push against their bum and their toes are downward. This results in a very tight Achilles tendon . This tendon needs sufficient time to stretch out after the baby is born.
Somewhere between 11 to 14 months, it’s common to see children walking on tiptoes. Usually the tiptoeing habit stops within six months of them walking. By the age of three, they mostly stand with their feet flat but might run or walk on their toes.;
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Autism Toe Walking: Lets Look At The Symptoms And Solutions
The developing stage of every child is marked by a series of milestonesfrom their first words, to the first time they crawl and, ultimately, their first steps. These developmental milestones are, for physicians as well as parents, indications of whether a child is developing within a neurotypical frame or not.;
When infants enter the developmental phase of walking, some develop a pattern of walking on their toestypically known as idiopathic toe walking.;
Research studies point to an increased rate of toe walking among autistic individuals. This could lead parents to ask questions such as: Is walking on toes an additional symptom of autism? And, if a child toe walks, are they at risk of autism? There exists a wealth of information on this topic; below is what you need to know.
What Is Hand Flapping Exactly
Hand flapping is a way to self soothe and regulate the body. Have you ever been nervous and realized that your leg was bouncing up and down uncontrollably? Well, youve experience self-soothing without even realizing it.
This self-soothing is also known as stimming, or self-stimulation. While its often associated with autism, all of us engage in stimming almost every day. Our bodies need it. Its just that some bodies need it more than others.
Here are some examples:
- You guessed it–hand flapping
The thing about hand flapping and other stimming behaviors is that they dont always happen at the same time for the same reason. It really depends on the kiddo and the situation. Lets talk about a few different emotions and why hand flapping may show up when someone is feeling that way.
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Persistent Toe Walking In Autism
“The incidence of persistent toe walking and tight heel cords were found to be higher in 324 children with an autistic spectrum disorder but lower in 30 children with Asperger syndrome.”
Although tiptoe walking is not uncommon in children with autism, not all children with autism display this symptom. Also, not all tiptoe walkers have autism.
Autism and Possible Symptoms: The incidence of persistent toe walking were found to be higher in children with an autistic spectrum disorder
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A Quick Note About Stimming
This question asks about rocking, but you should understand that stimming can take many different forms.
It can be any number of things such as:
- Biting nails
- And any multitude of other physical movements.
Although it is referred to as stimming when referencing those on the autism spectrum, it is something that nearly everyone does and has always done.
Mothers rock their babies to soothe them. A stereotypical image of an elderly person would be of them rocking in a rocking chair.
And what about you?
Have you ever bounced your leg, twirled your hair, tapped a pen on the desk, tapped your feet on the ground or anything like that when you were anxious or had too much energy?
Have you ever rocked yourself back and forth to soothe yourself when having a deeply emotional cry?
These are all forms of stimming, and are often done for the same reasons that someone with autism stims.
Rocking is simply another form of this.
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Helping Children Who Walk On Tiptoes
Doing some simple exercises at home on a daily basis, can go a long way in helping children with idiopathic toe walking. The aim of such exercises is to help stretch the muscles in their calves and to add strength to the muscles in the front of their legs. This will help them to walk more normally and to stand with their feet flat on the ground.;
There are two steps to these exercises. Firstly, for children walking on tiptoes, you want to get them to stretch to loosen out their stiff calf muscles. When this is done, you want them to do exercises that target these stretched out muscles.;
Walking On The Toes Or The Balls Of The Feet Also Known As Toe Walking Is Fairly Common In Children Who Are Just Beginning To Walk
This means it can be harder to tell you’re autistic if you’re a woman. What are some early signs of autism in toddlers? More than half of young children who toe walk will stop doing so on their own by about age 5. Toe walking is quite common in children 3 and under but, when seen in children 5 years or older, could be a sign of a neurological immaturity. I went to an awesome course a few years ago it depends.
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When Someone With Autism Rocks Is It Purposely Or Subconscious
Often times, someone on the spectrum may be unaware that they are rocking. They could easily be so wrapped up in their thoughts that theyre subconscious takes over as their mind tries to relax.
Other times they may realize that they need to relax, and begin rocking as they focus on relaxing.
Think about when you do something that would be considered stimming. Lets say you tap your foot.
Do you suddenly find yourself tapping your foot and you didnt realize you were doing it?
Does your mind pause for a moment right before you tap your foot making it a conscious thought?
I would guess both scenarios are true.
With that in mind, people with more severe autism may not realize that they are rocking.
Or they may know that they are, but dont give it any more thought than you would give when you scratch your arm.
Your arm itches, you scratch it and you dont think about it. If someone were to say Hey, youre scratching youre arm. You would be like, Ya, so? It itches. and it would be no big deal.
Why Do Many Kids With Autism Walk On Their Toes
They dont.; This only applies to a very small number of children with autism.; If parents and pediatricians have ruled out foot and ankle deformations, then the next approach is to look at how they learned to walk.
Too many parents make the mistake of putting shoes on their childrens feet when the children first start to learn how to walk along holding onto furniture.; The best approach argued by many pediatricians as well as orthopedists is to allow every child to learn to walk barefoot first.; Shoes can be worn outdoors and to the store to protect little feet, but when the child is learning to walk indoors, he or she should be barefoot.; The reason behind this is that, as they learn to walk, their feet, toes, ankles, and leg muscles and tendons are gaining their own strength and muscle memory.; Their own body weight is best distributed barefoot, helping their feet turn out in the right directions for the moment when they let go of the furniture and take those first shaky steps.; Shoes too early prevent the childs proper toe, foot, ankle and leg development.
In extremely rare cases, the Achilles tendons are so tight its impossible to even stretch the heel down without pain.; Parents can discover this by attempting a simple heel stretch exercise.; If the child cries, screams or is in obvious physical discomfort, a referral to a pediatric orthopedist may be needed.
More Concerning questions:
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What To Know About Toe Walking
Toe walking can be a commonly observed movement pattern that many young children display during their development, however many children will give up idiopathic toe walking without specific intervention. Research within the scientific community suggests that ITW is sometimes a causal symptom related to other conditions. Toe walking may be a symptom of a physical condition such as spinal dysraphism or injury, myopathy, and neuropathy.1 Children may also toe walk because of low muscle tone. When childrens abdominal muscles are weak, they depend on toe walking to feel secure while moving. If the underlying reason for toe walking is not caused by physical differences, it can be an indication of motor, visual motor, and gross motor delays that are associated with neurological conditions2 such as cerebral palsy, autism, and sensory processing issues.
Parents should consult their pediatrician if they notice that their child continues toe walking beyond the age of two.4 They should also be aware of other behaviors that may require additional evaluation such as language delays, poor eye contact, repetitive behaviors, tightness in muscles, and delays in meeting milestones.
Doctors and parents can receive more information about early childhood development and milestones at www.pathways.org or through email at . Founded in 1985, Pathways.org empowers parents and health professionals with free educational resources on childrens motor, sensory, and communication development.
Treatments For Toe Walking
Children who continue to walk on their toes do need help. Shortened tendons are painful, and they lock children into a walking pattern that’s very hard to break. Therapy can make flat-footed walking possible.
Experts say toe-walking treatments include:
- Physical exercises. Parents can use passive stretching techniques to help loosen tense tendons and encourage a normal heel-to-toe relationship. Parents can also entice their children to drop their heels quickly. These exercises aren’t always helpful in young children with communication deficits, but some families find them useful.
- Visual interventions. Doctors find prism lenses helpful in some children. These devices look like glasses, but they correct the visual disturbances that can come along with autism. Children who use this therapy also have daily visual-motor exercises to perform to retrain the eyes. Eventually, these children no longer need their special glasses.
- Casting. Tendons stretch via this technique. Every two weeks, the child visits a doctor for a new cast that pushes the foot slowly into the proper position. The child wears the cast both day and night, and in time, the tendon loosens and the child learns to walk with their heels on the ground. This mode of treatment takes up to six weeks to complete.
Interventions like this work. For example, researchers say children who use casts improve their gait, and they maintain those improvements years later.;
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Has An Unusual Intelligence Level
Being either far advanced or obviously delayed for their age could be a cause for concern. Some autistic children have an amazing mathematical or musical talent, known as a savant ability. Others are cognitively delayed. If you notice your child is on either end of the spectrum, and is clearly at a different intelligence level than the majority of their peers, its worth noting. That being said, some kids on the spectrum have a normal intelligence level, so the absence of unusual intelligence does not rule out autism.
Noticing Early Warning Signs Of Autism
Everyone tells us not to compare our child with others, whether to our own or someone elses children, but how can we say we dont notice any differences, if were really being honest? We cant just ignore their development and tell ourselves, Theyll talk when theyre ready and similar statements. Sure, every baby is different, and some develop more quickly or slowly for non-concerning reasons. How are we supposed to know when to worry?
The key here is looking for a pattern. If your child does one or two things that seem a bit strange to you, that may not necessarily be reason to send up red flags. On the other hand, if you are noticing that your baby isnt hitting multiple milestones, or has several very strange behaviors, thats a good reason to check in with their pediatrician. Here are some of the common early warning signs of autism to be watching for around 12-18 months and beyond.
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Generally Until Age 2 Toe Walking Isn’t Something To Be Concerned About
Please consult a developmental psychiatrist if you walk on your toes as an adult. I went to an awesome course a few years ago it depends. They may not stretch out their arms to be picked up or guided with walking. If your child’s toe walking stems out of underlying conditions like cerebral palsy or autism, your doctor will perform a developmental evaluation. Children who walk on their toes are more likely to have autism than other forms of developmental delay is walking early a sign of intelligence? Persistence of the toe walking for a long. However, the timing is really of no consequence. The main clue to autism is poor functioning in daily living , whatever factors contribute to it. Toe walking is a pattern of walking in which the balls and toes of the feet make contact with the ground, but the heels do not. Ladybros are of course welcome, as well as any other creature whom has/had the habit of toewalking. Toe walking accompanied by a language delay might be considered as an early sign of autism. Of 324 children with autism, 65 had shown toe walking. Early signs of autism are not universal as each child is a unique individual, but there are some behaviors that can signal parents to pay more it is completely normal for children up to age two or three to walk on their tiptoes.