Why does my child with Autism walk on their toes?

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What is toe walking?

Toe walking is when a person walks (and often runs and jumps) on the balls of their feet, meaning their heels do not touch the ground.

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Why do some children with Autism walk on their toes?

There are a number of reasons a child with Autism may walk on their toes. These include;

  • Sensory difficulties. A child with Autism could experience anxiety or discomfort feeling certain areas of their feet touching the ground.

  • Hyper-extended back posture (“sway back”). More commonly seen in children with low muscle tone / muscle weakness, this posture can shift the child’s weight forward over their toes, encouraging toe walking.

  • Vestibular difficulties. Vestibular has to do with balance, movement and coordination. This difficulty can cause the child to move their weight forward over their toes, encouraging toe-walking.

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Should I stop my child walking on their toes?

Yes. On occasions, children can 'grow out' of toe walking. However, you should seek professional support to reduce and eliminate toe walking. Toe walking can lead to pain and discomfort from difficulties such as the shortening of the achilles tendon. In severe cases, it can also lead to your child needing braces, or even surgery to lengthen tendons.

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What next?

Depending on why your child is toe walking, there are activities you can try at home to support reducing the behaviour. e.g.

- If a sensory difficulty, you could play marching games to encourage the entire foot to touch the floor. “The Ants Go Marching One By One”.
- If due to low muscle tone, activities such as jumping on a trampoline can be beneficial.
- If a vestibular difficulty, swinging on a swing can be beneficial.    

Our team at Acorn Autism can support you identify why your child is toe walking, and work with you towards reducing and eliminating the behaviour.

Note: The above information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as appropriate, with a qualified professional.

Please contact Acorn Autism for more information.