18 Months and Why He’s Not Walking

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  December 30, 2013 — 16 Comments


Sometimes you just see things coming. When I was a teenager I had a feeling that I was going to get into a bad car accident for six months before it finally happened (thankfully no one was hurt). In the summer of 2006 I swore off casual dating and met Nick a month later. And when I became a mother I was careful not to allow Jack to spend much time in what I called contraptions–bouncers, jumpers, walkers, and the like. I wanted him to spend most of his play time on the floor to encourage gross motor development. And wouldn’t you know that even with all that floor time my baby didn’t roll over until almost six months, didn’t sit unassisted until almost eight, and didn’t even army crawl until ten? He was almost one before he started crawling on hands and knees and pulling up to cruise along furniture and six months later that’s still as far as we’ve gotten. I anticipated that he would be a late walker but even I am surprised by how long it’s taken. The last time I mentioned it here he was 15 months and I was sure that his doctor would say it was nothing to worry about. I was wrong. She made a huge deal of it. I’d already told the nurse that he wasn’t walking yet, so I was surprised when the doctor breezed in and picked him up, saying that she wanted to see him walk to me from her. Uhhh, he doesn’t walk, I said. She told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted me to spend the next few weeks pushing him pretty aggressively to walk and call her if it didn’t work. She said, “He really should be walking by 15 months but I’ll give you a pass for 30 days.” She didn’t say what she would do if he wasn’t walking at the end of her grace period–maybe trade him in for a new baby? She also said that at our next appointment we’d discuss a game plan for dropping the pacifier because it needs to be gone by two. I smiled politely but inside I was quietly resolving to never see her again. We’ve disagreed on several issues before and what it all boils down to is that I don’t like being bossed around, which is what it felt like she was doing. Had she taken the time to tell me what could potentially cause a delay in walking, what her concerns were, and what she would suggest doing about it things may have gone differently, but I interviewed new pediatricians the next week and found one in the same practice that I took to immediately. She told me that some babies she would refer to our state’s early intervention program at 15 months and others she would wait on. Watching Jack move around the room she said that she would wait. I appreciated her individualized approach and the fact that she left the decision up to me. So we waited, but after a few more weeks I decided to have him assessed just for peace of mind. I figured it couldn’t hurt anything and we had nothing to lose–it was free. Just after Jack turned seventeen months a physical therapist came to our house and assessed him for developmental delay. As a social worker who assesses kids in their homes for behavioral health services all the time it was so weird to be on the other side of it as a recipient. The PT’s verdict: it’s not lack of confidence, skill, or motivation that’s keeping him from walking–it’s low muscle tone. He’s just not strong enough to stand on his own two feet without something to hold onto. Any number of things could cause it, from neurological conditions to nutritional deficits, but some kids are just born with it and we don’t know why (known as benign congenital hypotonia). It explains why he was slow to hit all of his gross motor milestones. It could even be related to the hip dysplasia that he had at birth. The good news is that it’s treatable. A physical therapist is going to start seeing him weekly at home after the holidays and in the meantime we’re doing lots of fun things to help him build muscle, like climbing the stairs (under supervision!), crawling over couch cushions on the floor, and bouncing on toys that he has to sit and balance on. We’re waiting to see a pediatric neurologist who will rule out all the scary stuff and let us know if there’s a cause we can treat (like a nutritional deficiency). Luckily, Jack isn’t showing any cognitive or social delays so hopefully with a little bit of PT he won’t have any lasting impact. I tell ya, this parenting gig is not always easy. I am so worried about him but I know we’re doing the best we know how.

In other news, we weaned from breastfeeding recently. He was down to just twice a day anyway and around 15.5 months I decided I was over it and stopped offering and by 16 months he was weaned! Breastfeeding is one of the only aspects of this whole pregnancy/parenting thing that has actually gone according to plan. I could not be more pleased with the experience.

Jack playing

Jack’s vocabulary has also been steadily increasing over the last few months and he now says about 15 words and understands many more. And, AND, I could never get the kid to sit still for a book when he was younger but he’s recently developed a love of literature. He even says book! Well, he says “booh-booh.” And he has a favorite, Rockabye Farm. My undergraduate degree is in English so you can understand how thrilled I am with this turn of events. Other favorite things include phones, balls, remotes, and food (the kid loves to eat, wonder where he got that from).

Jack 18 months

The last three months have been pretty stressful as anxiety over his lack of bipedal movement slowly mounted, but it’s nice to finally have something to do about it other than watching and waiting. The exercises are fun and it’s plain to see that he’s getting stronger every day. Hypotonic or not, I still think he’s a pretty amazing kid. He’s sweet, affectionate, funny, and smart. We are so lucky to be his parents.

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


16 responses to 18 Months and Why He’s Not Walking

  1. Hey Lady! You need to know that you’re not alone in this. Fisher had “developmental delays” in the sense that he walked, talked and pretty much did everything pretty late. It wasn’t until he started regressing in his speech around 18 months that I or the Dr. thought anything of it. Anyway, after his assessments with Early Steps (I assume that’s might be who’s coming to your home?) they had him OT for about 3 months. By this time he was walking, but they worked with him on strengthening his tone. Rolling on yoga balls was a great activity, as well as bouncing on a trampoline or any sort of jumpy. We were also in Speech Therapy for over a year. Fisher displayed signs of low oral muscle tone since birth and always had his tongue hanging out. This caused difficulty in nursing, feeding, and eventually talking. He started talking about a year saying only a few words, but quickly became frustrated and quit trying over the course of 6 months. Once his therapist told me about his low muscle tone, specifically his oral muscle tone, that’s when it all began to make sense and we could connect the dots back to all the struggles he’s had physically over his first year. Anyway, being able to focus our attention on helping him strengthen his tone made for a much happier baby once he was able to learn how to say and hear the words he’d been attempting for so long. It gave him the confidence he needed, it was fun and was overall a great experience. Now, he’s like a little parrot, repeating EVERYTHING he hears after being rewarded for being a copy cat for so long. ;) His speech is great and you would never know he had any previous difficulties. All that to say, I’m glad y’all were able to identify the issue early on and can now focus on offering Jack the support he needs to build those baby muscles. Before you know it, he’ll be running around so fast you won’t be able to catch him! ;)

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap December 30, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Ashley, that is so reassuring! I’ll have to chat with you sometime about how to do the yoga ball exercises. I got one for him hoping he would stand and try to roll it around but he isn’t into it. We also got him a jumpy toy for Christmas (an inflatable horse) but he hasn’t taken to it so far. It is Early Steps we’re working with. I’ve been really happy so far except that it just moves so slowly, but I know that’s not really their fault. It’s driving me nuts to have to wait so long to start treatment!

  2. Wow, that goes to show you need to trust those instincts! That’s wonderful that you have access to such great assistance and that you and Jack are having fun with his homework. :) Best of luck that he improves quickly with just some exercise and that it’s not anything more serious!

  3. I agree with you having Jack not spend much time in contraptions. They were the “in” things when my kids were babies. I didn’t use them. Glad I didn’t. I saw a little girl with horrible bruises from tumbling down one step in her walker. I also saw children with leg, feet, and hip problems from spending so much time in them. I know it has been difficult worrying about those benchmarks, now that you are getting the help that he needs, I’m sure the issue will be solved quickly. It never hurts to check with the experts. Remember, in the field of social work, you are that expert and help others in the same way. Thank goodness you changed pediatricians! Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling. Wishing you the best on his therapy. I’m sure this will be resolved before you know it.

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I really appreciate the description of your experience with the former pediatrician. I know what it is like to be disrespected by your child’s pediatrician. Glad you moved on and have had good luck with the new pediatrician. It It makes me cringe to see that it may have been suggested to you that the lack of walking may have been a question of motivation or character. Even when you know that isn’t true, it hurts to hear this type of commentary. Thank you for continuing to share your experience with us. Not only are you a thoughtful writer, you also always have beautiful photos. I’m so glad your experience with Early Steps has been a positive one. I look forward to hearing more about it!

  5. Parenting is indeed rife with challenge as well as great joy and unconditional love. I know that Jack will make great progress now and continue to thrive. You and Nick are wonderful parents. Great informative post and beautiful pictures, especially love the one of Jack looking out the window. Blessings for the New Year!!

  6. My now 10 year old son (who was 14 months before he started to walk independently) was diagnosed with speech and fine motor delay around the age of 2. We were so blessed to get speech and OT through the state and then our school district after he turned three.

    What I learned over the last 10 years, countless therapy sessions, doctor appointments and IEP meetings was that you need to trust your gut and remember that YOU are your child’s best advocate.

    For a kid who spoke 2 words at age one and only 1 word at age 2 (neither of which were “Mom.” Grrrr!), I am happy (and sometimes frustrated) to report that my son never shuts up now.

    What is hard is that everyone has an opinion–and is happy to share it. And as a first time mom, I sought out opinions. But learning to whittle them down was tricky. Everybody I talked to knew a kid, had a brother, a cousin or an uncle who didn’t talk until he was 3 or 4. And I can’t tell you how many times someone said, “When he’s ready to talk he will.”

    And that may have been true. However, early professional intervention wasn’t just helpful for him, it was peace of mind for mom and dad that we were doing everything we could for our son.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap January 10, 2014 at 7:09 am

      Thank you for sharing, Kris. You are so right. I’m glad to hear that your son is doing so well!

  7. We are going through the early intervention process with my little one for a delay in fine motor skills. I was concerned when she wasn’t reaching or grasping for toys at almost 5 months (usually starts around 3 months). We have gotten some good guidance and she is using her hands a lot more now at 7 months.

    It’s hard not to worry too much but I try to focus on the improvements and development we are seeing. It’s really amazing to see her skills grow.

    Glad you are getting support for Jack. :)

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap January 21, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Thanks so much for sharing, et. Jack is still not walking at almost 19 months now but I can see that he is making progress. We start PT this week!

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