All toddlers struggle at times to stay balanced as they become more active and face new physical tasks. Andrew Adesman, a pediatric development expert writing for the information website BabyCenter, says that a toddler's coordination for tasks and activities should improve over time as he learns to better control his body. Sometimes balance struggles may go beyond ordinary stumbles, and these continuing displays of clumsiness may stem from abnormal causes.
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The more active a toddler is at first, the more likely she will fall down or drop things. This should not be a cause for concern unless her clumsiness goes beyond typical bumps and stumbles. Adesman cites continuously bumping into walls, missteps on stairs, and dropping objects on the floor when attempting to put them on a table as examples that may raise a red flag. Balance disorders are uncommon in toddlers, but things such as eyesight and inner ear problems can cause issues with balance, as can problems with fine motor skills.
Having depth perception is important to maintaining balance. Information from the eyes is sent to the brain and how well it is received affects coordination. KidsHealth, a medical information resource sponsored by the Nemours Foundation, explains that rods and cones in the nerve endings in the back of the eye send impulses to the brain when light rays strike them, which provides visual images and cues that aid in balance. If a toddler is nearsighted or has an issue with depth perception, he cannot accurately judge how far away an object is, and may struggle with clumsiness. If a parent suspects that impaired vision is causing their toddler's balance problems, a simple vision test can be done by a doctor.
Problems in the inner ear and the vestibule of the ear can affect balance. When we turn our heads a message is sent through the vestibulocochlear nerve in our ears to the brain. The brain then sends messages to the muscles needed to maintain balance. Infections or a build up of fluid particles in the inner ear and vestibular nerves can lead to coordination issues. Another condition that can lead to balance problems is vertigo. Vertigo involves feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and nauseous. KidHealth notes that child vertigo, also called benign paroxysmal vertigo of childhood, may go away on its own as kids get older.
A more serious condition that can cause lack of coordination is dyspraxia. Adesman explains that this means there is a problem with general motor coordination skills. It can be caused by problems with brainstem processing or slow neuron development. It is not considered a physical handicap. Dyspraxia can cause individuals to struggle to determine what the proper sequence of events should be when it comes to completing tasks. This can make actions such as attempting to ride a tricycle difficult for toddlers. Children with dyspraxia are eligible for special education services. An occupational therapist can help determine if a toddler has this condition. Regular sessions with an occupational therapist will include activities to help with motor planning skills.
Recognizing a balance disorder in toddlers can be difficult because all toddlers are learning to gain more coordination, and most are not capable of expressing that what they're feeling doesn't seem right. A doctor can determine if a child's balance is more problematic than normal by going over symptoms, doing basic vision and hearing tests, and reviewing medical history. Referrals to other specialists may be made if a physician wants further tests ran. Most kids outgrow their balance problems, but doctors will provide treatment to manage symptoms if necessary. Treating balance problems can lead to developmental improvements in a toddler, and will greatly improve her quality of life.