One milestone parents look forward to with great anticipation is their baby's first steps. Most children usually start walking between 9 and 18 months, with about half of them walking by a year. If a toddler approaches the end of this normal range and still shows no signs of being ready to strike out on her own two feet, parents often start to worry. However, children may walk later than average for many reasons, and it only occasionally indicates a possible problem.
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Some babies walk later than average because of their temperament. They may feel content working on their verbal skills or enjoy activities they can do while sitting. Late walkers often develop all of their motor skills at a slower pace, and the late walking is just an extension of their late crawling, late cruising and late standing. Sometimes, later walkers can walk well if they hold someone's hand, but they just don't feel ready to take off on their own without the reassurance of mom or dad's support.
In some cases, babies walk late because they don't have the opportunity to learn to walk. Doting parents or older siblings who hand a toddler his toy, book or drink the instant he wants it lessen his motivation to try to reach the items himself. If a child spends a lot of time in a car seat or is carried everywhere, he may also not get enough opportunity to practice his walking skills.
While most late walkers are simply on the slow end of normal, babies do occasionally walk late because of a physical issue. Some normal children may walk slower because they have a slightly low muscle tone that makes it difficult for them to balance. Spending lots of time in baby exercisers may also prevent the muscles needed for walking from developing correctly. Babies who spend a great deal of time in exercisers may arch their backs incorrectly and have weak abdominal muscles and back extensors, which makes it difficult for them to balance and stand by themselves.
Certain developmental disorders can also slow down a baby's walking. Children with Down's Syndrome or Tay-Sachs Disease, a genetic disorder that slowly destroys the central nervous system, have weak muscle tone that can delay or even prevent them from walking. Cerebral palsy results in muscle tone that is too high, making it difficult for a child to balance because her limbs are too stiff. Children who have significant learning disabilities may also be delayed in all areas, including such motor skills as walking.
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- BabiesToday; Why Isn't My Baby Walking?; Melinda Copp
- AskDrSears.com: Walking
- BabyCenter; Your Child Doesn't Walk Yet; June 2008
- Patient UK; Delay in Walking; February 2010
- Paediatric Services; Limiting Time in "Walker" Devices May Avoid Back Pain Later in Life; Pamela Rohland
- Genetics Home Reference; Tay-Sachs Disease; September 2008