Families of children in early intervention programs and those who participate in physical therapy centers often have questions about the use of shoe inserts, also known as orthotics, for their children. Although orthotics are mentioned in many books available to families and professionals, there are few magazine articles or newspaper stories that mention these commonly used shoe inserts that do make a difference to children with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy; those who have challenges related to injury or serious illness; and teens who have pain or discomfort due to walking differently during early childhood and beyond.
It is important to find shoes half a size larger than usual so that orthotics fit inside, and to have children's feet measured regularly so that the orthotic and the shoe are both the proper fit.
Mainstream children who do not develop a normal arch by the age of six are often referred for orthotics. Bracing may be recommended for children with low muscle tone (hypotonia). Too often, foot problems are not noticed or addressed in children with disabilities or their mainstream peers as early as should be done.
There are a variety of devices available, including orthotic braces, that require the expertise of a compassionate therapist or licensed professional to adjust and monitor over time. Custom orthotics or braces are available from many reputable sources, including hospital and university clinics, orthotics and prosthetics programs, physical therapists at early intervention centers, orthopedists and podiatrists.
Children and teens with disabilities are not the sole users of orthotics - they are also recommended for athletes in various sports to avoid injuries or help them heal afterward.
While orthotics improve mobility skills, help in healing after injury, and have other benefits, there are other simple accommodations and supports that can be applied according to the individual's situation so they can participate in sports and recreation opportunities throughout their lifetimes. Socialization skills, physical fitness, and general health benefits from these activities are too important to set aside when physical challenges are used as an excuse for exclusion or restrictions not related to a child's health or safety.
Browse at your public library, local bookstore, or online retailers for titles like: Orthotics for Children, or
Childrens Orthotic Devices for Therapy and Sports
Early Intervention for Developmental Delays
Inclusive P.E. for Children with Special Needs