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January 3, 2022

Does My Child Have Low Tone?

It’s the end of a very long day. You finally got the kids into bed, folded a pile of laundry, and cleaned up from dinner; you’re finally ready to sink into the softness of your couch, curled up in your Comfy. Just then, your toddler comes into the room and needs your help, forcing you to recruit all your energy to get up off that comfortable deep sofa.

The energy it takes to up in that moment is just like the energy our low tone kids (and adults) need to exert for all of their movements-because their muscles are not in an optimal position to start with- their lack of tension (like a stretched out rubber band) needs extra force to do the same job as muscles with normal tone. 

So how do you know if your child has low tone?

A professional can assess tone by moving the muscles passively and feeling the amount of resistance the muscles give. However, it can be difficult to measure-it’s not as objective as height and weight. The best way for you at home to determine the level of tone is through function. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to figure out if your child may have low tone. 

  1. Is my baby motivated to move? 
  2. Is my baby meeting milestones within the typical time frames?
  3. Does my baby feel very “floppy”?
  4. Does my toddler drool excessively?
  5. Does my toddler have difficulty chewing tougher foods?
  6. Does my child struggle to climb and run at the same speed and with the same endurance as other children?
  7. Does my child struggle to complete fine motor tasks like buttoning shirts, coloring for long periods, or writing?
  8. Does my child struggle to stand in place-always needing to lean against a wall or asking to sit down?
  9. Does my child usually sink into a “W” position?
  10. Does my child have pronated (rolled inwards) feet?

These are some of the symptoms you may see if your child has low tone. Some or all may apply, depending on the degree of hypotonia. Many parents ask if hypotonia is a sign of an underlying condition. Sometimes it is, but often it’s a diagnosis all on its own. It really depends on the individual and can be discussed with your doctor. 

Now you might be wondering… will my child with low tone have to deal with this forever? 

Well, yes and no. Tone doesn’t change, but strength and function can.  The best way to support your child is to help him or her increase strength so that movement becomes easier. 

For babies, this means encouraging weight bearing through the arms and legs, motivating your baby to move through pivoting, rolling, reaching, crawling and walking (check out our Babies on the Move course for tips to facilitate all these milestones). With toddlers and older children, you can encourage them to do obstacle courses, scooter board races, yoga, walking on uneven surfaces like sand, swimming, swinging, and climbing. These activities may not come easily to our low tone kids, but with continued exposure, encouragement, and help from you, they can build strength to improve their function and quality of life.  

Here are some tips to improve function in the feet, hands, and mouth: 

Feet:  Orthotics can be extremely helpful to children with low tone who have moderate to severe pronated feet. Because the feet are literally the foundation of our bodies, we need stability in those joints. If your child is having difficulty with gross motor skills, seek out the guidance of a local PT and orthotist to determine if orthotics would be helpful. We have seen incredible results. 

Hands:  Playing with resistive materials like play dough, putty, and slime can help strengthen the hand muscles. Squeezing tongs, cutting, glueing, and other craft projects can be a great workout for all the intrinsic hand muscles. 

Mouth: Drinking out of a straw, chewing hard or chewy foods like pretzels or granola bars, and blowing bubbles are all good strengthening exercises for the mouth muscles to improve drooling and difficulty eating. A consultation with a speech therapist can also be super valuable!

Bottom Line:

Hypotonia (low tone) is the when the muscles have less tension than normal and are not in an ideal position to fire. This results in difficulty activating the muscles for gross motor, fine motor, and oral movement. Despite tone not being able to change, we can increase strength to help improve function through exercise and purposeful play.

Have specific questions about tone? Head over to our community and become a member (it’s free!), to post a New Topic so we can help you as best we can.

 

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Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Trusted by 100K parents and counting.

 

@totsontarget

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