3 year old boy with poor muscle tone and balance difficulties
This little boy comes to mind because I wanted to highlight how amazing children are at adapting to their development weaknesses, to the point that only an 'in tune' mum and dad, or an allied health professional were able to spot the challenges that this little boy was having.
When I went to see this little boy for the first time, he was eager to play with the fun toys in my bag. As I was watching his movement getting down on to the floor and back up in to standing, I could see that he wasn't using his toes or the 'balls of his feet' to push himself up.
Now this might not seem like a big deal at first. But with each step that we take when walking, our heel touches the ground first, we lean our body weight forward so that our body weight moves from our heel through our arch to the balls of our feet, and then the last thing to push our body weight in to the next step is our big toe.
When we don't use our big toe for 'propulsion' in to the next step, we get a very heavy walking pattern (gait). You will hear this as people sound like their thudding up and down the hallway. Long term this can create huge stress on ankle, knee, and hip joints.
The reason why we need our big toe involved in our standing, balancing, and walking, is that our big toe helps our balance system sense where we are, our big toe also helps us to change direction when we're running and playing. These are the current challenges that this little boy is facing. He finds it hard to have the 'push off' strength to walk up and down a big step, he trips over a lot at home, if he is nudged in the playground he immediately falls over. By focusing on his foot movement, we give him improvements in balance, walking, running, hopping, and jumping.
All of these skills make his experiences at school and on the playground more enjoyable. It's the tiny changes that we work on, that can create a huge difference to a child's overall development.