Since Gia took her first independent steps a few months ago, progress has been pretty slow. I was expecting it to be, but I wasn’t really imagining, this snail’s pace. Of course I’m still ecstatic that she is attempting to walk, but honestly, it’s a little disappointing to see my almost 2.5 year old only take a handful of steps these last months.
We’ve tried various types of motivation: favorite toys, introducing new ones, food, and even having grandma visit during therapy for her to “show off.” We’ve tried custom ankle-foot orthotics, which she promptly refused to walk in. We’ve tried music and Anna’s coaching. Finally, I decided she just wasn’t ready to take more steps and wondered if she wasn’t moving forward because she is focused on her verbal skills. I’ve been reminded many times that kids with special needs only seem to work on one new skill at time and it seemed that was exactly what Gia was doing. I even mentally “kicked” myself a few times for pushing speech before she has mastered walking.
Little did I know that I had not in fact tried every motivational trick in the book. Indeed, I overlooked a pretty obvious one.
Gia has a petite foot. And by petite, I mean extremely tiny. At 30 months she is barely in a size 3, the size of a typical 3-6 month old infant. Her foot is the length of the palm of my own petite hands. To make matters worse, her feet are narrow, about two thumbs width; an inch wide, to be precise. And to top it off, due to toes that didn’t completely form, one foot is about a half size smaller. Shoe shopping doesn’t come easy for little Gia, and finding something for a “pre-walker” with support and yet flexible is darn near impossible. Eventually we did find something that was workable, mostly because the upper strap could be cinched pretty tight against her narrow feet. They are brown and plain, but provide a more stable base and side support than her leather-slipper hand-me-downs. She has been wearing these shoes for about a year!
I recently ventured into a favorite used kid’s clothing store looking for a warm snowsuit for my petite 18-pound toddler. It was there I spotted the new shoes; same brand, but different style with a similar front strap. They were a barely used 3.5 size so I thought maybe next year they might fit (*sigh). I was shocked with what happened when I tried them on Gia; she started walking! At first just a few steps, but within a few minutes she was walking around the store! She walked from the sales lady to me, from me to the clothes rack, from the clothes rack to the counter.
After admiring them the entire ride home, she walked independently around the house many times. If she became unstable, and fell, rather than crawl like she normally did she simply stood up and walked again. She walked without me prodding her on. And within a few days of the new shoes she walked the hallways to her therapies, she walked around a big room for a music class, she walked to the door when therapist arrive. And now she is even walking barefoot. It isn’t perfect, and it’s still short distances, but she is trying and moving forward.
This was no coincidence; clearly those shoes helped her. I don’t know if it was because they are a bit more stable or simply because they are pink, but they have given her the self-confidence to literally take the next step. I would have never suspected that a pair of used shoes could have this power. For twelve dollars, Gia’s magic pink shoes, are already proving to be one best values I’ve ever found!
What’s next? Flashdance here we come!