Everything You Need To Know About Orthotics For Children

baby wearing cranial orthotic

When it is recommended that your child needs orthotics, it can be a very overwhelming process full of confusing acronyms, trial and error, and insurance coverage games. Ankle foot orthotic (AFO), supramalleoluar orthotic (SMO), knee-ankle-foot orthotic (KAFO), UCBL (University of California Berkeley Laboratories shoe insert), hip-ankle-knee-foot orthotic (HKAFO), cranial orthosis (CO), Thoracolumbosacral orthotic (TLSO), night splints, daytime bracing... the list goes on. Your child's physical therapist can be a great resource of information about the fit and function of an orthotic. That’s where the pediatric physical therapists at Performance Physical Therapy come into the picture. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about pediatric orthotics.

Who Needs Orthotics?

There are certain diagnoses that present themselves in a way where orthotic use can benefit the child by improving function or positioning. As physical therapists, we treat diagnoses that typically require orthotics, like toe walking, cerebral palsy, hypotonia, Down Syndrome, scoliosis, and plagiocephaly. Just like physical therapy, orthotics use is individualized, so there can be many other diagnoses that can benefit from them.

What Are the Options For Pediatric Orthotics?

As mentioned earlier, there are a variety of orthotic options. Your child's physical therapist and orthotist (the person who fits the orthotic) will work together to find the best orthotic for your child. Some children require day bracing, which typically helps with their movement or positioning. Some children will benefit from the addition of night bracing that provides a prolonged stretch to help improve muscle length. The following options are commonly used orthotics for children:

  • Ankle Foot Orthotic (AFO)

  • Supramalleoluar Orthotics (SMO)

  • University of California Berkeley Laboratories Shoe Insert (UCBL)

  • Hip-Ankle-Knee-Foot Orthotics (HKAFO)

  • Cranial Orthosis (CO)

  • Thoracolumbosacral Orthotic (TLSO)

What Parts of the Body Are Orthotics Used For Infants?

Orthotics can be used on any part of the body. Physical therapists most commonly assist in orthotics for the spine or lower extremities, while occupational therapists typically work more with upper extremity orthotics. However, physical therapists can assist with upper extremity positioning and stretching orthotics to help with arm and hand function, similar to how they work with the trunk and leg to improve your child's ability to move.

Why Are Orthotics Used For Children?

Orthotics are used for a variety of reasons including positioning, stretching, molding/shaping, and to improve quality of movement. If your child has a contracture, they may benefit from night splinting for a prolonged stretch. If your child has a hard time walking due to loose ankle joints, an SMO may help give them enough external support to make walking easier and more efficient. If your child spends most of their time in a wheelchair, an AFO may help position their feet comfortably on the footrest. If your child has plagiocephaly as an infant (a flat spot on the back of their head), a cranial orthotic can be used to shape their head as they grow. If your child has scoliosis, A TLSO is often used to prevent the progression of a spinal curve.

Should My Child Be Using Orthotics?

If you’re wondering if orthotics could benefit your child, a consultation with a pediatric physical therapist can help to answer your questions and calm your nerves. At Performance Physical Therapy, we have many pediatric physical therapists throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts who are ready to help you and your child improve their movement or function goals. Contact Performance Physical Therapy at 401.726.7100 to schedule an appointment with a pediatric physical therapist today.

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