What does it mean when you hear your doctor say that your son or daughter has low tone?
It can be scary for a parent to hear terms like low tone and wonder how it is going to impact their child’s life. In this blog post, we’re going to define exactly what having low tone means, as well as discuss some activities that can be beneficial to help strengthen your child.
Muscle tone is the resistance or tension that our muscles have to movement. Children can have normal/neutral, high/increased, or low/decreased tone and each of these varying classifications has a different impact on that child’s ability to function in everyday life.
Here are some things that muscle tone controls:
- Postural control
- Speed of body movements
When a child has decreased tone, they are going to have increased flexibility in his/her joints, which can impact their ability to sit at a desk and participate successfully in the classroom, meet handwriting milestones, feeding, and many other tasks. Additionally, children who are low tone will have to put in extra effort to activate their muscles, likely impacting their endurance and ability to participate in exercise and sports as easily as other children.
Some things you may be noticing in your child:
- Decreased head control
- Delayed motor milestones (crawling, walking, etc.)
- Decreased endurance during playtime
- Decreased coordination
- Decreased functional strength
Although your child will need to put in more effort than other children his/her age in order to participate in daily activities, there are treatments and strategies an OT can offer your family that can be utilized to make things easier on both the parents and the child.
Although tone cannot be “fixed”, there are ways to help your child stimulate their muscles to make activities easier:
Warm-up Activities: Doing preparatory activities, especially those that stimulate the vestibular system, before beginning homework or eating can help stimulate the muscles and help with postural control.
- Targeting the vestibular system: jumping on a trampoline, swinging, crab walks, star jumps, bouncing on a ball, etc.
- Additional activities before handwriting tasks: playing with playdoh, crunching up paper, etc.
Core Strengthening: Strengthening your child’s core will also help with trunk control. With guidance from your therapist, incorporating a therapy ball into activities at home is a helpful strategy. The movement on the ball engages your child’s core, activating and strengthening muscles.
- Sit on while doing homework, watching TV, etc.
Against Gravity Positioning/Superman Pose: Children with low tone have difficulty with neck control and stability. Using the superman position will challenge your child to use their head, neck, and trunk extensors. Low tone children will often place themselves into a forward flexed position (shoulders curled and neck to their chest) because of the decrease in postural muscles; the superman position combats this. Your child can be in this position on a peanut ball, a scooter board, or on the floor, while participating in various activities:
- Completing a puzzle, Legos, boardgames, drawing, writing, etc.
*Hyperlinks are included in this article to browse various scooter boards, peanut balls, and therapy balls. Before incorporating these activities into your daily routine, make sure you discuss with your therapist which activities would be most beneficial and ensure the proper techniques are being used.