Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Modeling My AFO

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 11:27 pm on Thursday, July 10, 2008

Glenda Watson Hyatt with cerebral palsy wearing her AFO – ankle-foot orthotic
(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” – 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 – 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.

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Comment by AnneShirley Manion

July 11, 2008 @ 5:00 am

Hi, Glenda. Some great info for those who need it.

Comment by Loree

July 25, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

Glenda! Julia just got new ones a couple of weeks ago… and they are the same pattern as yours. Isn’t that funny?

Lookin good there girl! Aren’t you glad knee highs are in style? It used to be hard to find socks high enough for J’s AFOs.

Comment by Glenda

July 25, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

Cool, Loree! I was going to go with plain, thinking that would “go” with more outfits. Then I thought, if I have to wear braces again, I might as well have something fun this time around.

But, I confess, I’m not wearing knee highs and a hunk of plastic strapped to my leg in this hot weather!

Comment by Rebecca

August 7, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

Hi Glenda! So glad I came across your website, love it! Thought I would mention that in the years that I have tried everything to find a shoe to fit my son’s AFO’s, I finally found a place that makes shoes for AFO’s! In the past it seemed to be able to find anything that was wide enough (he has articulating, hinged AFO’s with HUGE metal hooks on the OUTER sides) meant it also would be able way too long for him. I finally found and my prayers were answered! He has been in the boys blue shoe ever since and man, are they slick. They perfectly fit over his AFO’s and he has that much better balance also because the shoe fits properly (and look good too!). Anyway, the pictures they show are the children’s sizes but I noticed that they offer the same styles in Adult sizes also! They also have the sizing guide that you print out to see exactly what size should be ordered for your particular brace. Hope this helps and thank you for your website!

Comment by Dee

September 3, 2008 @ 2:27 pm

Great info! I use an AFO too, on my right foot. It looks a lot like yours. 🙂 I was born with a club foot, and had two ops as a kid for it, and as an adult in ’05 & ’06. As a result of being out so long I lost my job. My doctor would not release me to go back to the type of work I was doing, very physical. He was amazed I went on as well as I did for so many years. I’m still jobless, can’t work like I use to.. and I have some learning problems, so sit down work is not easy for me. And in my area there are few such jobs anyhow. Well, it’s time for a new AFO, mine is starting to come apart. With no insurance it’s going to cost and arm & a leg just for that hunk of plastic! I can’t do it, but I need it. So, Glenda, or anyone else out there, if you know of a place online, a service, etc., where I can find way to get a new AFO for under the asking price of $700.00 dollars, I would be very grateful! Thanks in advance. And if anyone is wondering how I make it now, food stamps, living with my father, and some money help from my sisters. I have tried to get disability, but it’s hard goin’ and I would rather work anyway, I’m looking into things now, working with a group to help my with finding work, etc. But my needs still exist, so ya know, the cheaper the better. My email is deestin1972 (at) a o l (dot) c o m, if anyone has any info to offer. 🙂

Comment by Jimmye Ann Hay

October 16, 2009 @ 11:08 am

You have given me encouragment. I am having a AFO prepared (won’t have it for several weeks), and just don’t really what it will be like. All I know is that it will be worn with a diabetic shoe (that I already have)and is supposed to brace my ankle/foot. I have been wearing a full foot/leg custom made brace for 13 months alread. Again, thank you for your courage and your blog.

Jimmye Ann Hay

Comment by kathi

May 23, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

I also where AFO’s on both legs I have CMT. I habe found that standard Crocs work very well and are easy to put on and take off. I have also created a great sleeve that goes on the brace so that you do not need knee high socks in the hot weather. For more information send me an email. I will only charge for the material, I used cute tank top mateial.
Good luck everyone

Comment by Angie

September 18, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

Hi glenda! Yes we were ob the search for shoes. My daughter has cp and uses AFO’s. We are always on the search for shoes and hoping that nike or reebok will come out with something. Or even vera wang. LOL!!! Some real pretty dress shoes for my little girl, that loves going to church on sundays and wearing her dress would love. We were able to buy the hatchbacks and thier mary janes were great. But just went to order the new pair for the new AFO’s and she has out grown their sizing. 🙁 She will be home soon from visiting with her dad and I will have to break the news. In my search, I thought paying 85.00 with shipping for the hatchbacks was exspensive. HAHAHAHAHA!!! I found out my thoughts were wrong. But enough babbling… I just wanted to let you know I came across your message and enjoyed it. I wish I had found it years ago when we first started getting the AFO’s for brianna. Maybe one day. Like you said… The plastic is better than the metal. So with time and development we may one day all be happy with the look and comfort of AFO’s and the shoes.

Comment by Brandy

June 27, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

Hello there Glenda! Thanks for posting…not looking forward to wearing my AFO’s but I get casted for them pretty soon…its an inspiration to see someone be so forward with it! thank you!

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