Does toe walking mean my child has Autism?

Does toe walking mean my child has Autism?

Toe walking is a term used when a child walks on the balls of his or her feet. Toe walking means that there is no contact between the heels and the ground.  Let’s take a closer look at what it means when kids walk on their toes.

Firstly, it is very important for parents to note that most toddlers spend time walking on their toes when they are learning how to walk.  Once a child has however learnt how to walk or when they have “perfected” their style of walking the toe walking will stop. 

When to see a doctor: 

  • If your child continues to toe walk after the age of 2 years. 
  • If you child shows signs of tight leg muscles, then we would recommend making the appointment as soon as you notice the stiffness

Typically toe walking is a habit that develops during the time when a child learns to walk.  In rare cases, toe walking can however indicate an underlying medical conditions such as:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • A short Achilles tendon
  • Orthopedic conditions such as a “club foot” or an inflammation of the growth plate in the heel

Toe walking is often associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Researchers say many children with autism walk on their toes.  A 2011 study for example said that 20% of children with autism walked on their toes.  Whilst 20% is a high percentage or proportion – it does not mean that toe walking is a sign or symptom of Autism.

Let’s look at what the DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder guidelines and criteria says, and I quote: ~” while toe walking may be an example of criterion B1, it may not be sufficient by itself to assign the criterion if there is a physical explanation for the behavior (and thus not clearly atypical) and/or if it occurs only in one context (e.g. at the beach when barefoot in the sand).

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.