April 21, 2022

The Art of Children Falling and When it Might Be a Problem

Young children are prone to falling, which can actually be a good thing – we’ll explain why!  Excessive falling can be a sign of a problem, however. Here are some reasons a child may have balance issues, what to look for, and how physical therapy can help. 

Key takeaways:  

  • It’s normal for kids to fall often, however, these falls should not result in frequent and/or serious injuries .
  • Falling helps kids learn the skills of failure and perseverance.
  • It also helps teach kids motor skills like balance and coordination.
  • Falling can give a child a lot of helpful sensory feedback, such as proprioception.
  • If your child is falling excessively, it may be because of a balance disorder.
  • Multiple types of balance disorders can affect kids and teens.
  • We review signs and symptoms so you know what to look for.
  • Physical therapy can help with balance issues.

It’s quite normal for young kids to fall a lot. Falling helps kids learn the invaluable skills of failure and perseverance, so they can literally get back up and try again. Falling also helps them develop sensory input, including vestibular input, which is the sensation of any change in position, direction, or movement of the head. This can help them learn about proprioception – where their body is in space. Allowing your child to fall teaches them that it’s okay and that they can get back up again. These are valuable lessons to carry into life.

Unfortunately, sometimes excessive falling or falling that results in frequent or serious injuries are a sign of a problem. How do you tell if your child is just clumsy, playing too much, or if there may be an underlying issue at bay? Keep reading to find out.

The presence of balance disorders

Staying upright involves multiple systems working synergistically. Our ears, eyes, joints, and muscles all get in on the action to help us stay steady. If any of these systems aren’t working well, balance can be affected.

Although balance disorders are uncommon in kids and teens, they can happen more than we realize, since symptoms can be missed or blamed on something else. Kids with balance problems may be dismissed as clumsy or uncoordinated. You may notice that your child has a hard time walking, riding their bike, doing schoolwork, or playing if they have a balance disorder.

The signs and symptoms of balance disorders

The severity of balance disorders can vary from child to child. Some kids and teens may have mild signs that aren’t noticeable while others have more pronounced symptoms. Smaller children may be unable to articulate how they feel. Older kids and teens may complain that they feel lightheaded, dizzy, or disoriented.

  • Some general signs of balance disorders are:
  • Have a “woozy” feeling that makes it hard to stand up, walk, turn corners, or climb stairs without falling, bumping into things, or tripping.
  • Difficulty walking in the dark or on uneven surfaces.
  • Unable to walk without staggering or holding on to something.
  • Vertigo. Kids may describe this as spinning, swinging, or feeling as if they’re on a merry-go-round.
  • Walking with their legs far apart or not being able to walk without staggering or holding on to something.

There are more signs as well. These other signs can include:

  • Vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Vision problems
  • Frequent falls
  • Fear, anxiety, or panic
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and feeling unwell
  • Delayed development

Always consult your doctor if you notice some of the above signs and symptoms.

Besides the above symptoms, kids experiencing balance disorders may also experience hearing loss or other hearing difficulties. Sounds can seem muffled, especially if there’s background noise present. They may also experience ear pain, pressure or fullness in the ears, and tinnitus.

Balance problems can be particularly nefarious to deal with at school because they can make it hard to remember things, pay attention, and follow directions. Difficulties with balance issues is likely to make gym or sports classes hard for kids.

Balance disorders by types

Multiple types of balance disorders can affect kids and teens. Some of them include:

  • Benign paroxysmal torticollis of infancy: This typically occurs during the first six months of a child’s life. Kids who have this usually keep their heads tilted because they feel dizzy. Thankfully, it usually resolves by the time they are around five.
  • Benign paroxysmal vertigo of childhood (BPV): In this condition, vertigo comes on rather suddenly, causing children to appear startled and unsteady. It will also usually resolve on its own. Some kids who had BPV as children are prone to migraines later in life.
  • Vestibular neuritis: This is caused due to a viral infection that causes inflammation of the vestibular nerve. The vestibular nerve sends information about balance from the inner ear to the brainstem.
  • Labyrinthitis: This is a form of vestibular neuritis that occurs with hearing loss. It is caused by a bacterial or viral infection of the inner ear’s labyrinth.

There are other less common causes, including:

  • Perilymph fistula (PLF): This is a connection between the inner and middle ear that shouldn’t exist.
  • Meniere’s disease: This is an inner ear problem; kids with this disease usually have a malformation of the inner ear.

These balance disorders can affect a child’s ability to stay upright and cause excessive falling.

How physical therapy can help

Physical therapy can help your child learn to stay upright and make the most of their situation regardless of what’s causing it. Your physical therapist can help your child with body awareness, proprioception, and other vital skills to help them develop and keep their balance.

Get support from qualified physical therapists in the Chicago, IL area

Realizing your child is struggling with staying upright can be challenging. However, rest assured that this is a skill, and like any skill, with the right help, your child will likely be able to improve. If your child is struggling with excessive falling, you can help him or her improve their balance at Lumiere Children’s Therapy. We offer full-service pediatric physical therapy, so your child can be as independent as possible.

We help kids with:

  • Motor planning
  • Gross motor and fine motor delays
  • Body awareness
  • Coordination skills
  • Functional skills, such as stairs
  • Daily self-care skills
  • Handwriting
  • Visual-motor integration
  • Visual perceptual skills
  • Feeding
  • Social and peer interaction skills
  • Sensory processing
  • Strength and coordination
  • Early development with infants
  • Sensory processing

We can help children with specialized diagnoses, such as:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Developmental delay
  • Prematurity
  • Fine motor delay
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Down syndrome
  • Learning delays
  • Visual processing disorders
  • Motor incoordination
  • Chromosomal abnormalities

Lumiere Children’s Therapy also provides a host of other pediatric therapies to help children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions achieve traditional childhood milestones.

Our services include:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • ABA behavior therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Social work
  • Physical therapy
  • Early intervention
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Teletherapy

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago. We focus on providing services catered to the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Be sure to learn more about how our clinicians work diligently to improve the lives of the children and families they serve.

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