Low tone or hypotonia is a common cause of developmental delay in children. It can come along with other diagnoses or it can stand alone.
Regardless of the label, our pediatric physical therapists and pediatric occupational therapists at Kid PT focus on building on your child’s ABILITIES and STRENGTHS in order to help your child and you meet your goals, whether that is learning new motor skills, improving sensory regulation, or signing up for soccer or dance class and finally having it be a FUN experience rather than a stressful one.
What is low tone?
Low tone is a term used to describe the baseline stiffness of the muscles. High tone would describe muscles that are in a tighter resting state and low tone describes muscles that are in a more relaxed resting state.
Some signs that a child has low tone are:
- Frequent w-sitting like the boy in the photo above
- One extreme or the other: always moving and trouble staying still OR prefers sedentary play
- Gross and/or fine motor delay
- Gets tired easily, especially on long walks
Low tone can impact children in different ways throughout their lives. It is also a spectrum and different children will be impacted to different degrees depending on a variety of factors. Let’s look at how low tone can impact children at different ages as they grow.
Babies can be impacted by low tone as they go through their first year of development. It can impact many different systems, from their ability to suck for feeding to their ability to lift their head, roll, sit, crawl and learn to walk.
Some children will use atypical patterns to compensate for their low tone and other children will become master observers and limit how much they move.
We want to support babies and their curiosity as they learn to explore the world they live in. We work with babies with low tone every day to support them to learn new skills.
Toddlers with low tone may have diffuclty keeping up with their peers during play. Their balance may not be as good as other children and they may look like a younger child in how they move. They may continue to crawl up the stairs, instead of walk and they may reach for your hand for help more often.
Toddlers with low tone may have decreased core control that can impact not only their gross motor skills and fine motor skills, but their speech, focus and attention.
SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN
Children with low tone may have new challenges that come once they are in school and over time as the demands of school increase. Many children with low tone have a harder time controlling their bodies- that means they are spending more time and energy focussed on just sitting, listening and looking, than just thinking and learning, at school.
Many children with low tone will have difficulty keeping up with friends on the playground or having success (meaning fun!) when they participate in recreational activities, such as soccer and dance.
HOW TO HELP
Regardless of age or the degree of impact of the low tone, improving a child’s control over their body and maximizing their sensory and motor systems will make daily life much easier. That’s where physical therapy and occupational therapy can help!
If you are wondering if you can better help your child, call us today at (908) 543-4390 to learn more.