Low Muscle Tone

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My child seems to have trouble sitting at the table for longer than 10
minutes at home for dinner, and his teacher says it's the same at school. She said it might be low muscle tone. How do we know and what do we do about it?

Muscle tone is the amount of tension in the muscles, achieved by a continuous partial contraction of the muscles. This helps us to keep our bodies in a certain position. Muscle tone is different to muscle strength. Strength is more so a component of physical fitness. For example, if we pick up something heavy, our muscles exert force that gives us the strength to pick up the item.

There are a number of signs that can indicate low muscle tone: 

  • Does your child seem to tire very easily?
  • Does your child sweat more than other kids during physical activity?
  • Does your child seem “floppy” or “double jointed”?
  • As a baby, did your child take their weight when you picked them up or were they a “heavy” baby?

Certain activities can be beneficial if you think your child may have low muscle tone:

  • * Animal walks 

  • Bear: walk on hands and feet with bottom in the air
  • Bunny hops
  • Frog leaps

* Wheelbarrow walks

  • Support your child at the hips while he places his hands on the floor and walks forward
  • Support just above the knees as your child becomes stronger

Scooter boards and balance boards are fun and help build core strength

* Swimming or jungle gym play

* Fun obstacle courses (set up your own in the backyard) using various combinations of witches hats, bean bags, foot pods, and other gross motor products. Be creative!

Because of the fatigue that is often related to low muscle, you may have noticed difficulties with fine motor activities such as writing, drawing, colouring or cutting. Improving these skills can increase participation at school and prevent your child from falling behind. If you suspect that your child may need extra help in this area, seeking the assistance of an occupational therapist can be beneficial.

Getting ‘Home Programmes’ done!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Our therapist has recommended some daily activities to help our child. I know it needs to be a priority, but how on earth do we fit anything extra into our family’s hectic schedule?"

As a parent of kids who have needed to follow several home programmes, as well as a therapist, I feel very familiar with just how challenging this can be. At one point there we were working on a strengthening programme with one child and an articulation programme with another. Our family has had Speech Therapy, Physio and Occupational Therapy goals to work on at different times with each of our children. In my experience there are lots of ways to tackle this and. Like many things, it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. A big determining factor is the nature of the therapy goal and the tasks themselves, then you’ve got variable like parenting style, your child’s personality, resources/equipment available, other children’s needs, etc, etc. Some of the options below may work for you with a bit of tweaking……

  • TEACHABLE MOMENTS – this is about looking for ways to build therapy goals into your regular daily routines. This can work well for families who have regular routines! I think this is the way to go for general developmental areas, eg muscle tone, bilateral coordination – where you might get your child to bear walk from their bedroom to breakfast each morning to develop muscle tone, and have some fun 2-handed games with the bubbles in the bath each night to work on bilateral coordination.
  • SCHEDULED PRACTICE TIME – This worked best for our family! I found if I didn’t set a specific time it just didn’t happen. It also works well when you need to do specific, prescribed activities, eg literacy tasks, specific handwriting activities.
  • SETTING UP A BOX OF ACTIVITIES AND LETTING YOUR CHILD GO FOR IT. This can be brilliant! Work on finger strength, dexterity, pencil skills, sensory processing, oral motor activities can all be achieved by your child with minimal support if you set them up with fun activities. This is part of the reason we’ve made up the therapy kits you can see on the Skillbuilders website. These kits give parents (and teachers) a simple, practical option for helping kids develop specific skills. They provide a good starting point that’s easy to build on.
  • A COMBINATION OF ANY OF THE ABOVE. Sometimes you need a combination, eg when you’re working on specific muscle stretches along with general work on muscle tone, and sometimes you just need a change of approach to re-charge your enthusiasm.

A point on maintaining enthusiasm…..

For yourself – Ask yourself – “What will it look like when my child has sorted out this developmental glitch?” eg Toby will be able to use scissors as well as his peers, then break this skill down into VERY observable steps so that you can really see his progress and not be vague about it. This will help you be clear about his progress and this motivates you to keep up your efforts.

For your child – FUN FUN FUN – try really hard to incorporate fun at every opportunity. Kids will practice the activities spontaneously if they enjoy them.