Is your infant with cerebral palsy commando crawling? Should you be concerned?
Commando crawling is completely normal. Many babies without cerebral palsy commando crawl.
However, as a parent of a child with cerebral palsy, you’re going to be a little more proactive and really consider if commando crawling is just a stage, or if something is preventing your child from engaging their legs.
This article is going to explain how cerebral palsy can contribute to prolonged commando crawling and what you can do to help your child walk.
Let’s get started!
Commando Crawling in Cerebral Palsy Patients
Commando crawling is not your typical hands and knees crawling.
It’s a type of crawling where the child primarily uses their forearms to move while their stomachs remain on the floor and legs drag behind.
Why might commando crawling be worrisome for infants with cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a motor disorder that affects movement, balance, and coordination.
While commando crawling may not be a problem at all, it can also be a sign that irregular muscle tone in the legs is causing developmental delays.
Children with cerebral palsy, specifically spastic diplegia, may commando crawl for prolonged periods without progressing to standing or even getting on their knees because of the way high muscle tone affects their leg movements and balance.
Similarly, children with ataxic cerebral palsy may have too low muscle tone, so they don’t have the lower body strength to prop themselves up.
Maybe the Legs Aren’t the Problem
Another idea to consider is that commando crawling may not be attributed to weakness in the legs, but rather a lack of core strength.
Crawling is an activity that engages the entire body.
It requires bilateral coordination of your arms and legs.
A strong core is necessary to sit upright and balance both the upper and lower body.
Consequences of Prolonged Commando Crawling
Children with cerebral palsy that continue to commando crawl for prolonged periods will develop very weak leg muscles.
Think ‘use it or lose it.’ If your child doesn’t use their legs, the body will think that they don’t need them, and the muscles will shrink to conserve energy.
Additionally, spasticity can worsen, which can cause pain, hip displacement, and stunt growth.
This is a crucial time for growth and development, so early intervention is ideal to avoid distortions, scoliosis, or other musculoskeletal problems.
Managing Commando Crawling and Cerebral Palsy
Taking your child to physical therapy will help identify weaknesses early and set realistic goals.
Early management will promote movements that can replace commando crawling before it becomes a habit.
The best ways to transition out of commando crawling is to:
- Stretch spastic muscles to improve range of motion
- Strengthen underused muscles to counteract spastic muscles
- Continue to exercise spastic muscles to reduce their excitability
These methods will help your child develop the skills necessary to better control their lower body, bear weight, and balance.
Additionally, try holding your child up and have them practice moving their legs without bearing any weight.
This will promote lower extremity mobility.
Babies are very curious and explorative. When they try something and nothing comes out of it, they’ll stop practicing that movement.
By encouraging your child to move their legs as much as possible, they’ll continue to explore their lower extremity functions.
Should You Be Worried About Commando Crawling?
Most infants learn to crawl anywhere between 6 to 10 months and walk independently by 18 months.
If your child has just started commando crawling, try not to worry too much.
Many children commando crawl for long periods without ever transitioning onto their hands and knees.
Instead, they’ll just start standing or walking.
However, it never hurts to get a professional medical opinion and speak to your child’s pediatrician.
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand how cerebral palsy can affect commando crawling.
Featured image: ©iStock.com/romrodinka