I am writing about Hypotonia today because I am so happy that it is finally being recognized more in the Autism world as well as being associated with other disabilities as well such as;
Muscular dystrophy the list goes on and on.
What is Hypotonia?
Hypotonia aka Low Muscle Tone is a medical term used to describe decreased muscle tone. Normally, even when relaxed, muscles have a very small amount of contraction that gives them a springy feel and provides some resistance to passive movement. It is not the same as muscle weakness, although the two conditions can co-exist. Muscle tone is regulated by signals that travel from the brain to the nerves and tell the muscles to contract. Hypotonia can happen from damage to the brain, spinal cord, nerves, or muscles. The damage can be the result of trauma, environmental factors, or genetic, muscle, or central nervous system disorders. For example, it can be seen in Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Prader-Willi syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, and Tay-Sachs disease. Sometimes it may not be possible to find what causes the hypotonia. Infants with hypotonia have a floppy quality or “rag doll” appearance because their arms and legs hang by their sides and they have little or no head control. Other symptoms of hypotonia include problems with mobility and posture, breathing and speech difficulties, ligament and joint laxity, and poor reflexes. Hypotonia does not affect intellect. The opposite of hypotonia is hypertonia.
Sarah was diagnosed with Hypotonia the same time she was diagnosed with Autism. Back in the 1990’s Hypotonia was not even considered as being one of the complications that could be associated with Autism.
Sarah had some physical therapy to help her muscles become stronger. The problem was that the insurance did not seem to think it would be a long term health issue with Sarah, so they refused to pay for anymore treatments.
As a result we as a family had to try and pick up where the therapists left off. We did our best but most of the time Sarah (do to her sensory issues) did not want to be touched and there fore would not comply.
Hypotonia can cause complications such as frequent joint dislocations. Sarah has joint dislocations especially in her knees. She fell back on her leg one time and totally dislocated her knee, which in turn she now has arthritis in that knee. She has a really hard time walking a lot of times and requires help to do so because of her knee.
If your child has been diagnosed with Hypotonia (a.k.a Low Muscle Tone) find out what caused it and get the best help you can. Here are a few good resources to help you out.
Hypotonic children are often treated by one or more of the following specialists:
- Developmental pediatrician: a pediatrician with specialized training in children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development as well as health and physical growth. He or she may conduct a developmental assessment which will determine any delays the child has and to what extent the delay is present.
- Neurologist: a physician who has trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. Neurologists perform neurological examinations of the nerves of the head and neck; muscle strength and movement; balance, ambulation, and reflexes; and sensation, memory, speech, language, and other cognitive abilities.
- Geneticist: a specialist in genetic disorders. He or she starts with the detailed history of the family’s background, looks at the child’s features and orders blood tests to look at the 46 chromosomes and possibly at specific genes on those chromosomes.
- Occupational therapist (OT): a professional who has specialized training in helping to develop mental or physical skills that help accomplish daily living activities, with careful attention to enhancing fine motor skills. In a developmental assessment, the occupational therapist assesses the child’s fine motor skills, coordination, and age-appropriate self-help skills (eating with utensils, dressing, etc.).
- Physical therapist (PT): a professional trained in assessing and providing therapy to treat developmental delays using methods such as exercise , heat, light, and massage. In a developmental assessment, the physical therapist assesses the ability and quality of the child’s use of legs, arms, and complete body by observing the display of specific gross motor skills as well as observing the child in play.
- Speech/language pathologist (SLP): a professional who is trained in assessing and treating problems in communication. Some SLPs are also trained to work with oral/motor problems, such as swallowing, and other feeding difficulties resulting from hypotonia.