Just because they named it a walker doesn’t mean it will help facilitate independent walking for your child. There are no studies that support the idea that putting your child with Down syndrome in a walker will help him to reach that milestone sooner. In fact there is some evidence that shows that children who use walkers actually learn to walk on their own later than their peers.
Pros & Cons of Walkers
Like any baby contraption that has a seat and some toys attached, a walker can be useful when you need to put your child in a safe, entertaining place while you answer the phone or cook dinner.
If your child is not ready for a walker, there are risks involved with putting him in one. A walker allows your child to bear weight on his joints that he may not be ready for if he does not have the core strength and stability to handle it. These abnormal forces on the joints can cause damage and can also teach your child patterns of posture and movement that are not typical for his development. Most walkers interfere with the child’s ability to see his legs and feet and therefore hinder his ability to receive important motor information about how his body works.
Having your child in a walker for long periods of time can also hamper sensory motor development because it controls what the child can “go for” and puts a barrier between the child and the world around him.
When a Child Can Benefit from a Walker
If your child has the desire to be up and moving around and can walk along the couch or coffee table, or can walk while holding on to a push toy, or can walk while you are holding his hands, yet cannot walk independently due to trouble with balance, susceptibility to fatigue, or some other underlying cause for delay, he might benefit from a therapeutic posterior walker.
A posterior walker provides the support and mobility a child needs to be able to walk around, yet does not inhibit proper gross motor and sensory development. A posterior walker should be introduced to your child by a trained physical therapist and his time using it must be closely monitored by a caregiver or therapist.
Now that you may have changed your mind about buying a commercial walker, you might want to throw the big question out there, “When should my baby walk?” There is a very large age range for this skill and many factors determine when it comes. Some children with Ds start walking as early as 14 months, others are over the age of 4 before they master it. So unless a doctor or therapist has indicated that there may be a secondary cause for delayed walking, be patient... it will come. And, for those times you need to confine your child for his safety (or your sanity), stick with an exersaucer or playpen.