AFOs and Other Assistive Devices: How Do They Affect the Brain?

I get many questions about the use of assistive devices like walkers, standers, and ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs). Most importantly, you need to consider how this kind of intervention will affect the child’s brain. Think of it of in the following way:

Would you take a child who does not have special challenges who has started cruising and moving between furniture and give her a walker with the hopes that it will get her to begin walking independently faster?

If you do, you will take away from this child the opportunity to gain a wide variety of experiences that to you may seem irrelevant, but our whole human species has been depending on these experiences for millions of years. You will deny the child the richness and constant flow of experiences, kinesthetic information, and successes and failures that are the basis for all development.

Below is a link to an article that I wrote on AFOs that provides more detail about why, in most cases, I do not recommend using these kinds of assistive devices. Of course, there may be times when these devices can be helpful; however, they need to be functional and dynamic so that the child is able to experience and initiate movement.

The Use of Ankle-Foot Orthotics (AFOs) with the Child with Cerebral Palsy

This article also features the Story of Isabel, demonstrating how Anat Baniel Method® NeuroMovement® provides new opportunities and information for the brain that will enable children with special needs to learn these skills on their own.

In addition to reading this article, I recommend that you take guidance from your child and read the chapters on Variation and Flexible Goals in my book Kids Beyond Limits.

And please, let me know how it goes. Join us on social media. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Anat Baniel