18 Month Old Stumbles Every Time She Tries to Walk

Updated on November 22, 2008
T.B. asks from Fresno, CA
4 answers

My daughter is 18 months old. She was born May 20, 2007. She didn't start crawling until she was 10 months old. She only recently (in the past two weeks) started trying to walk, but she staggars like a drunk. She can take 5-8 steps with her hands in the air like she is trying hard to balance, but then she loses it and staggers sometimes forward and sometimes backwards trying to regain her footing. Sometimes she just falls and often hitting her head on things like the table leg, frig, etc.

She is a very smart and energetic girl. She has a strong memory and outstanding social skills. Her only problem seems to balance herself.

She has seen an eye specialist and was diagnosed with slight astigmatism in her left eye and lazy eye in her right eye.

She was given an MRI on her brain last week and they said the results were great. Everything looked normal.

She has another appointment tomorrow with her eye specialist and she has an appointment on Friday with her medical doctor. They plan to try something else. They seem to be baffled at what to do next.

I was wondering if it could be some sort of Inner Ear problem.

Have you heard of this or do you have any suggestions I can forward to her doctors?

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So What Happened?

Well, the eye doctor thinks it could be a motor skill problem or neurological. She says she can see an improvement in Keira's eyes since her visit 2 weeks ago. She gave me some patches to alternate on keira's eyes for a while to see if it makes them stronger. That will be a challenge because she barely let's me put a beenie on her. I appreciate the advice. It makes me feel better.

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

Sounds like a muscle tone issue, not an inner ear problem (unless she has an existing condition that involves her ears, it's quite unlikely). A head MRI would have shown any structural/fluid related ear problems if there were any present. Often, regular medical doctors and pediatricians do not recognize "slight" muscle tone issues with children, and since your daughter is only 18 months old, she is still within "normal" range for reaching the walking milestone - in general, your pediatrician would probably not address her late walking issue unless she reaches the age of 2 and is still behind in her gross motor skills. If she had other obvious developmental delays, a muscle tone issue would have been recognized by now, but from your description she is typical in every other way. However, you are the mommy and will notice that something is off FAR before your pediatrician would, so ask your pediatrician for a referral to a neurologist. Here are some very brief symptoms of low muscle tone (hypotonia) and high muscle tone (hypertonia); look them over and see if any of them seem to fit your child.

Hypotonia, or low muscle tone, is associated with postural limpness, floppiness, or a heavy feeling felt when another person passively moves the limb. Usually, children with low muscle tone lack ligament, muscle, and tissue resistance, thus providing inadequate support to their joints, leaving the child hypermobile, and often inappropriately described as being "double- jointed".

Often, hypotonic children appear inactive and passive. This is because they lack the proximal control (strong neck and trunk muscles), needed in order to move within or transfer to and from positions. They tend to maintain postures that provide them with the most support, however the least function. For example, when a child is on his/her belly, often they will assume a typical leg posture referred to as the "frog posture". Positioning their legs further away from their body provides them with a wider base of support, versus if their legs were positioned closer to the body.

Hypertonia, or high muscle tone, refers to an increase in resistance of a muscle to passive stretching, (when another person moves the child's limb). Often times, attempted voluntary movements of distant or opposing muscle groups trigger hypertonia. For example, if your child attempts to reach for a glass, increased tone may kick in, and he/she will not be able to straighten their arm in order to reach the glass, because the muscles that bend the arm have not relaxed.

As mentioned earlier, the brain controls muscle tone, and when the signals from the brain to the muscles are not working properly, tone is altered. This increase in tone can cause many issues for the child, including deficits in motor control, motor planning, balance and coordination, leading to difficulty in functional mobility, dressing, and ambulation, to name just a few.

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answers from San Francisco on

She sounds like she is a normal 18 month old who is learing to walk. Maybe a little on the late side but every child learns at there own pace. The whole thing with walking is that they are trying to get there balance. My son would get up take two steps and fall flat on his face for weeks. Then he got better. He still falls down for time to time. don't worry about it. Just let doctors rule one thing out at a time. she may just be doing this in her own time.



answers from Redding on

My daughter (now 25) began wearing glasses at 2 years old. She fell, missed steps, ran into doors, just missed putting her cups on the table....
By 16 my daughter had 20/20 vision.
My nephew had an eye that didn't track. It was recommended he play video games. He still wears contacts to correct his eye problems at age 23.
Trust your eye doctor.



answers from Chico on

My children both walked earlier than yours, but in the same manner! My son (first born) took about 8 months between first steps and really looking like he knew what he was doing. He took a few steps just before his first birthday, then didn't try again until he was 14 months old. Your daughter's vision/eye problems may have caused her not to try walking sooner, but it sounds like she's pretty normal in her manner of early walking. Just one more thought: make sure she's barefoot to practice so that she can figure out her balance using her feet to "grip" before you introduce shoes. Good luck with the doctors' visits: hopefully they will confirm normal development!

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