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LOW MUSCLE TONE
Low muscle tone is often seen in the typically developing child. What exactly is this? When muscle tone, the inherent degree of tension in muscles, is at the lower end of the normal typical range, it can be called low muscle tone. Beyond this typical range there is also hypotonia, a-typical low muscle tone, as well as hypertonia also known as a-typical spasticity with very tight muscles. Hypotonia and hypertonia are generally seen together with specific diagnoses for instance cerebral palsy. But what is low muscle tone that falls within the typical normal range?
As babies, they often start to crawl late and or do not crawl for very long. They rather stand up and walk earlier as it takes less effort. Consequently trunk control and shoulder stability therefore does not develop adequately.
Some children with low muscle tone seem Â“lazyÂ”. They are the typical Â“couch potatoesÂ” that always lean onto something for extra support, very often hanging onto Mom and Dad. They get tired holding static postures and therefore the well-known picture of the sleepy child sitting at his school desk in a slouched or forward bend posture with head on his hand springs to mind. It takes more effort to activate and use a low toned muscle, than it does to work a well toned muscle.
On the other hand, other children can appear fidgety and constantly move in and out of various postures as those muscles fatigue early and need a break. Continual movement also helps to build up muscle tone, thereby helping them maintain an upright posture, and improve focus.
Low muscle tone is frequently picked up in school and may contribute to the following difficulties:
Slow work-speed as they get tired too quickly.
Attention and concentration Â– hyperactive, fidgety or daydreaming.
Poor pencil grip and handwriting Â– they often press very hard on their pencils and hold their arms and hands in awkward positions.
Poor posture Â– slouch, hand on head. They often have very flexible hypermobile joints.
Low muscle tone around the mouth Â– poor pronunciation of words, drooling, mouth hanging open.
Each child is unique and an occupational therapy evaluation is necessary to confirm diagnosis of low muscle tone.
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