Sue Scheff: Kids who walk on their toes

What can we learn from an 11 year-old that walks on their toes?  Acceptance? Tolerance? Self-Esteem? Or simply just being who you are!

Raleigh Small Business Examiner, Heather O’Sullivan, or Heather O as we all affectionately refer to her  through her Good Soup website, recently wrote about her 11 year-old son that walked on his toes.  Although it was a source of debate; was it healthy, is he o-kay, is he normal – at the end, it is about being who you are and being happy! 

With Heather’s permission, I am sharing this wonderful and warming story on New Year Eve’s day.

What We Can Learn from an 11 year-old

By Heather O

My 11 year old son is a “toe-walker”. Simply put, he walks on his toes (on the balls of his feet) instead of with his feet flat on the ground. All children do when they first start walking, but they “are supposed to stop” around age 2. When he was in preschool, his teacher expressed concern and so I questioned his pediatrician about it (again!). In fact, every time I had seen a different doctor over the years, I had asked the same question. Each and every time, I was told “it’s nothing to be concerned about”.

When he was in the first grade, his teacher told me that one of the parents had noticed, and expressed concern. She said that he was a physical therapist, and that he had only ever seen this in patients with Muscular Dystrophy. My heart seemed to stop, and the wave of panic began. I don’t remember the rest of the conference, only calling the doctor’s office on the way home and demanding an appointment! I spent the entire weekend researching on the Internet and becoming increasingly upset. My husband told me that I was overreacting and I simply pointed out that there was NOTHING on the internet that said that it was “normal”. Nowhere! Every post was either about cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy!

On Monday morning, the pediatrician assured me (without even watching him walk by the way) that he did not have either and I really should not be concerned. Since she also said that she had “researched it over the weekend”, I decided that her opinion was not enough. I then took him to a neurologist who said that it could be for a number of reasons, but the only way to be sure was a full body MRI under general anesthesia. He said that in any case, he wouldn’t worry about it unless or until it caused a problem. He explained how he could do stretching exercises and we went on our way.

I tried a number of times to get him to do the stretches, and he replied “but I like walking this way. I would remind him occasionally to try walking on his feet, but was always careful not to make a big deal of it.

Years later I was at a March of Dimes function where I listened to the parents of their “poster child” speak about their experience with their extremely premature daughter. The proudly announced “today you would never even know that she was born so early. She has none of the typical “side effects”, she’s not even a toe-walker.” I practically tackled them on their way out to ask about the statement. Apparently that is a common side effect of being more prematurely!

As first I was angry. Why hadn’t any of the 12 doctors that I had asked told me this? In any case, I was relieved. It did not however, stop others from asking, and commenting and being concerned! Year after year, I would be questioned by others, and left feeling like I was somehow “uncaring” because I was not concerned.

At age 9, I took my son to a new pediatrician for an unrelated issue. Since it was something of a routine for me now, I asked her about it. She turned to my son and explained…….

Continue to part 2 —->