What is Low Muscle Tone and how does it affect my child’s development?

“Can you imagine the frustration and the agony to be constantly reminded by a parent or a teacher to sit up straight and to pay attention. You are putting in such a lot of effort and energy to maintain an upright position and yet your muscles feel so heavy and your movements feel akward and clumsy. You try so hard to sit still, but your muscles keep on moving and adjusting to enable you to to find a more comfortable position.

Some children has to put in more effort and energy to maintain an upright posture and some children has to constantly move and change position to be able to pay attention and focus on given tasks. The child with low muscle tone often seems weak and he tires easily because he has to use a lot of effort to just hold his head and body up against the pull of gravity. Symptoms of hyperactivity e.g. wiggling, rocking, swinging or shifting can occur in an attempt to keep his body upright. (Ayers,2005: 52, Kranowitz,2003: 125).

Man is dependant on the maintenance of an upright position in sitting, standing and walking to be able to perform more complex and skilled movements of the arms and hands without fatigue. Functional muscle tone assist the body to maintain an upright position, allowing the individual to focus effectively on the more skilled activities e.g. to read or write or to independently eat and dress himself. If a child finds it difficult to process information from his muscles and joints, his arms and legs feel heavy and it is difficult to guide him through activities e.g. putting on shoes and socks or to lift him onto a chair or a jungle gym.”

  • Download this excellent article by Port Elizabeth based Occupational Therapist, Elrie Maree: Low muscle tone (313 KB), to read more.
  • Elrie’s number is 041 3642923, should you wish to contact her.

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