Partners In Learning Blog Team

Partners In Learning Blog Team
Blog Team

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Ankle-Foot Orthoses (AFO)

The Ankle-Foot Orthoses (AFO) is a common orthotic used to brace the ankle for children with impaired ankle function. AFOs are typically used for children with difficulty standing or walking due to ankle strength or positioning, or for children after a foot or ankle surgery. If your child is having difficulty with standing or walking, AFO bracing may be an option.

 AFOs can provide stability to the ankle joint. According to Dr. David Thompson, Associate Professor in physical therapy at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Professor, when walking, the AFO will substitute for weak dorsiflexors and plantar flexors. This allows your child to stand and swing his leg safely without worrying about the ankle joint failing and the child being injured.

A variety of AFOs are used for children; the right type for your child will be determined by your child's developmental issues.  You should work with your child's doctor or physical therapist to determine what is the best orthotic for your child. 

As important as it is to count on the experts to know which orthotic may be the best, you must also count on your "parent gut".  In other words, if you child does not adjust well to the new AFOs after the adjustment time; don't hesitate to get a second opinion.  One of the parents I work with did exactly that and changed from the AFO on the left to the new one on the right.  The new one is softer and more confortable for her child. 
Most AFOs are custom-made for you child and his legs. The American Physical Therapy Association states that many physical therapists are trained in the fit and measuring of orthoses such as AFOs. Once your child is measured, a certified orthotist will create the AFOs and then your child's physical therapist will confirm the AFO fits as desired.

A number of options are available in AFOs to help your child both like the AFOs and help them improve as well. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, some AFO braces are designed to provide maximum support when first delivered, and then your child's physical therapist to decrease the support as your child's stability improves. Most orthotists offer your child the choice in designs and colors; this personalization can help your child feel more like the orthoses are something he wants to wear.

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Norma Honeycutt, Early Intervention Specialist

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