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Orthoses for students with an ABI fact sheet

Orthoses for students with an acquired brain injury

What are orthoses?

Orthoses are braces (splints) which are customised for each student and have a specific purpose. They can be made for any part of the body but are more commonly used for feet, legs or arms.

Commonly used foot orthosis

Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO)

A student might need an AFO if the muscles that lift the foot when walking are weak or tight. The AFO helps to hold the ankle and foot in a position that allows the foot to clear the ground.

The most common AFO is a plastic shell that fits inside the shoe under the foot and behind the lower leg. It is held in place by Velcro straps (see image, Ankle Foot Orthoses).

Another type is an ‘R-wrap’ which has a front section tucking into the back section (see image, ‘R-wrap’).

Orthoses - Ankle foot orthoses (left) and 'R-wrap' orthoses (right)

The AFO’s can also help to decrease tone (muscle tightness) and provide a stretch to the calf muscles.

The student may need to wear the orthoses at school. Each student will have a different wearing regime that will be decided on by the Orthotists and Physiotherapist. If a student is required to wear them at school, they may require assistance to take off and then put the AFO back on after some activities.

What can I do to help my student with orthosis?

  • Follow the wearing regime that has been recommended. Talk to the parents or therapists if this has not been stated in the school records.
  • When removing the orthoses, check for any reddened areas on the skin. There may be some red marks due to the foot being held firmly in position (eg. under straps). Red marks are of concern if they do not fade within 20 minutes of removing the orthoses. This is because they could lead to skin breakdown (wounds/sores).
  • If you notice a red area that does not fade quickly, DO NOT put the orthoses back on. ALERT the parents. The orthoses should be checked by the Orthotists as it may need adjusting or review. Growing students need new orthoses just like new shoes.
  • If the student needs assistance to put the orthoses back on, you will need to be shown how to do this correctly. Contact the parents or therapists for instructions.

Orthoses are a very important part of the student’s total management. If orthoses have been made and are not being worn, please encourage the family to have them reviewed.

Contact us

Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service
Queensland Children’s Hospital
Level 6, 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane 4101
t: 07 3068 2950
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
f: 07 3068 3909

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Developed by the Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service, Children’s Health Queensland. Updated: October 2017. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.