(Photo credit: Darrell Hyatt)
Because a few of you have found your way here after googling phrases like “AFOs”, “cerebral palsy braces”, and “cerebral palsy shoes” â€“ for which I thank you, this post is for those looking for more information on AFOs (ankle-foot orthotics). Having nothing to hide, I gladly share mine with you.
The AFO is a custom fitted brace made from heavy plastic (or perhaps fiberglass, I’m not sure, but it isn’t as heavy as the metal braces from the old days). The process begins with a casting. It took three casts to get my foot and ankle in the best possible position. I was sore afterwards, after having my body torqued in directions that it doesn’t usually go.
Then there were a few more appointments for further tweaking to make it as comfortable as possible. Imagine making a stiff, hard casts comfy. No matter what is done, it doesn’t feel like bedroom slippers!
Some AFOs have articulated joints at the ankle. The doctor wasn’t that kind to me. My foot doesn’t move at all! This makes getting up into the standing position because I’m teetering on my heel until I’m fully up and can put my foot flat on the ground. Not great for someone with tenuous balance at the best of times!
Because of the width of the AFO (also dubbed the Anti Fashion Object), I must wear wide men’s shoes, thankfully with Velcro fasteners. I’m searching for ultra girly tops to counterbalance the male bottom.
To be honest, I am not keen to be back in a brace. I thought suffered through triple arthrodesis surgeries the summer before Grade Six, many moons ago, freed me from braces forever. But, the surgeon did warn the bones may slip at some point in the future, which I feel occurred a few years ago even though today’s doctors say nothing has moved â€“ not that they’ve compared current x-rays with post-surgery ones. My ankle has been sore and slightly swollen most days for these past few years.
Wearing the AFO does put my ankle in a better position. Some days it relieves the pain. Other days it exacerbates the discomfort. I choose when I wear it. If I am going out and may be using less than ideal washrooms, where I need to be solid on my feet, I don’t wear it. And, on these hot summer days, when my ankles swell anyway, forget it! If my foot is extra sore, I put the thing on to try to get some relief. Because I’m now an adult, I now have that choice!
For parents researching AFOs for their child with special needs and for adults with disabilities facing the possibility, I hope this helped. Feel free to ask any questions you may have and I’ll try to answer them.If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.