“Will she ever walk?” This is a very common question that we have been asked many times over the years. Generally what people actually mean when they ask this question is “will she ever be able to walk all by herself without any support”. The short answer to this is “I don’t know”.
In fact “I don’t know” is the answer to many questions regarding what Mikayla will be able to do that we have been asked and indeed asked ourselves over the years….see my post on “where is the road map” for more on that subject…but let me just say here, that one of the really difficult things that I have found about Cerebral Palsy is that there really ISN’T much of a road map!
I suppose “walking” is sort of an indicator for people, a measure of progress, a measure of independence, and perhaps simply an idea that if one can walk, then they don’t need so many bits of equipment and therefore life would be a bit easier. I guess in the early days, walking was one overarching goal that we hoped to help Mikayla to achieve. We didn’t know what she might be able to do, so we just aimed for the normal everyday milestones, and took one day at a time (I have a post for more on taking one day at a time too!) and never ruled anything out.
Mikayla did get the point where she was able to weight bare and so stand up with support.
When she was 4yrs old, she did get a walking frame so she could experience the world standing up and start the process of learning to propel herself forward.
When she was 4 she received a Hart Walker and was able to do the Hart Walker Program due to a generous donation. The Hart Walker opened up a new world of fun and was a great therapy tool to help Mikayla’s development. It was exciting because it enabled hands free standing and forwards movement. (more on the Hart Walker in its own post)
Later she was able to progress to a Kaye Walker and take steps using that. In the early days, I don’t think it was expected that she would be strong or steady enough for a Kaye Walker so this was a big deal and indicator of how far she had come.
Don’t get me wrong because each of these walkers was hard work! There is an aweful lot that goes on behind the scenes that you just don’t get from a photo. There was a lot of encouragement and perseverance required from all of us both when in a walker, and in terms of the ongoing therapy that was needed to get to each point.
So, in answer to the original question: “Will she ever walk?” , to some degree, Mikayla can in fact “walk”. If we set her up with a walking frame Mikayla can use it to walk a short distance. This is a really important part of her daily routine because walking helps her to weight bare and therefore helps her bone growth and development, as well as her muscles and joints.
Generally speaking, at this point, Mikayla uses her walker to go short distances from A to B with support eg from one end of the hallway to the other, and needs to be on very flat not slippery surface, and generally a pretty straight course. She has difficulty manouvering it around bends or negotiating obstacles, and she really needs supervision and support. However, she is happy to do it, and likes to challenge herself at times with seeing how far she can go. There is no doubt that “walking” is hard work for her though!
In our circumstance, we feel it is important to give Mikayla the opportunity to progress her walking as far as she can, and that it is an important option for to have to use at her disposal.
But if the question is “can mikayla walk independently without help” the answer at this point is quite simply “No”,
Is taking an unsupported, totally independent step totally out of the realms of possibility for her? “I dont know at this point” What I do know is that there are a lot of factors that would make doing this extremely difficult for her right now. One example of this, is that Mikayla cannot balance enough to stand up without holding onto something, and right now, she does not have the ability to stabilise herself enough to keep her body in an upright position, and she has great difficulty in motor planning meaning that coordinating all the movements required in all the parts of her body are very difficult to do all at once.
Is it likey that she will take an unsupported step sometime in the future? “Given what we know at this point, it is probably not likely” ………. but is it impossible? “I dont know”
So for now “Never say Never”. It is more than likely that Mikayla will always need a wheelchair for some things, and certainly to get any distance or to get around generally in the community. How great would it be though if she could take a few steps to get say from her bed to her chair, or to get around within in a small space, say her bedroom? There is no doubt that this would open up further independence and freedom, and mean less “modification” would be required for her environment for the future.
Perhaps the more important question is “Is walking at all costs the most important thing”? The answer to that is “Not to us”, and one day this will be something for Mikayla to decide for herself. What IS important to us, is probably the same thing that is important to all parents regarding their children, and that is to love Mikayla for all that she is, and to help her to reach her fullest potential – whatever that might be. And of course as parents we will continue to do what we can to make her abilities in all things as good as they can be. What the future holds, we will simply have to wait and see.