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Is My Child Hypotonic? Hypotonia Symptoms in Children and Babies Diagnosis and Treatment

Updated on August 26, 2015

My Child

My child turned 3 years old last November. I try very hard not to compare her to other children as all children develop at their own rate. But my child is...well...behind.

There, I said it.

She weighs a mere 24 lbs, is very petite and speaks no more than 2 words together. All other words are mumbles. Pure jargon that is understood by her and her alone.

My girl developed late in all aspects of growth and milestones. As a friends baby would be crawling along happily at 9 months, mine would be sitting. Just sitting. First words of "momma" or even "hi" were not of her capacity. Finally she began to motor about the house after one year and miraculously walking at almost 2. But her speech was ever-lacking.

I admit, I never really thought much of it until at her 3 year check-up. I made excuses that I must be just answering for her and she may not communicate her needs because I anticipate them for her. But, the doctor was concerned. We were then referred to Help Me Grow.

Help Me Grow

Help Me Grow is a service provided by the State to evaluate and assess possible developmental delays in children. Once a diagnosis of delay is founded, they refer your child to the appropriate help.

I was a bit reluctant to call this service as I personally did not want to admit there was a problem with my child. No parent does, but in time I obviously did and it was the best call I ever made.

A Speech Therapist, Physical Therapist and an Occupational Therapist came into my home and evaluated my daughter. It was found she is highly intelligent, but is most likely plagued with Hypotonia.

W Sitting
W Sitting


Hypotonia is defined as low muscle tone. Low Muscle tone I asked? How? She is so active! That's the misconception.

Hypotonia is not lack of muscles or muscle weakness. It is the resistance to movement in a muscle. Hypotonia is best explained in this example:

If your child jumps from a stair, they will land in the frog position. Why? Their muscles cannot respond at a high enough rate to keep them on two feet. The resistance of the muscle to stay upright is not there.

The symptoms of my daughter having Hypotonia would have and did go unnoticed until Help Me Grow intervened. The symptoms my daughter has are:

  • Delayed Speech
  • Walking on the inside of her feet
  • W-sitting (knees are bent at an angle leaving legs behind as the shape of a W (afemoral anteversionka)
  • Frog landing
  • Head remaining back as lifted from lying position
  • Inability to deliver bowels naturally

Hypotonia Symptoms

Hypotonia presents itself through numerous symptoms and is usually diagnosed at birth or shortly thereafter. The most noticed symptom is the "rag doll" baby. Because of the resistance to movement the infant is seen to be floppy or soft in its movements.

Other symptoms are:

  • Delay in Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills
  • Speech Delay
  • Slow development of sense of balance
  • Breathing Problems (short of breath or 'loud' breathing)
  • Difficulty swallowing (can't breast of bottle feed for long periods)
  • Problems with mobility and posture
  • Lethargy
  • Weak ligaments and joints
  • Poor reflexes

Your child could also experience bowel difficulty. As with all symptoms, if you see your child having even one of these issues, contact your Physician for evaluation and follow-up.

Cause of Hypotonia

Here is the problem. Hypotonia is not an overall diagnosis, unfortunately it is a sign or symptom to the greater cause.

The cause of Hypotonia may stem from a traumatic event, environmental factors or an underlying CNS (central nervous system) disorder, genetic disorder, or muscle disorder.

Hypotonia has been associated with Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy,Trisomy 13 and Downs Syndrome, just to name a few.

A Young Boys Journey

Diagnosis of Hypotonia

Numerous tests are available to determine cause and diagnosis Hypotonia.

  • Computerized Tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Chromosome Karyotyping
  • Spinal taps
  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Muscle Biopsy

My Girl...
My Girl...

Treatment of Hypotonia

Treatment, as with any condition, depends on the severity and overall underlying cause. For now, my daughter receives Physical and Speech Therapy until the Neurologist defines a better treatment. Whatever the reason, whatever the severity, your child is not a 'special needs' child due to Hypotonia.

Your child is truly special...with needs.


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    • Holly Loesch profile image

      Holly Loesch 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      A mother knows best and you are right on. I am an MD and surgeon. Resigned from private practice to work with my son whom has had this since birth. I had to push to get an evaluation for developmental delay through the pediatrician just after he turned one year. I made the diagnosis as most parents have to. He has had PT, OT since. Cognitively these children are highly intelligent. He is now 5 1/2 and doing very well with continuous work. Core is key. Horse back riding, swimming, yoga for children are great for core. I used a vestibular listening series through the OT which made a huge difference for him with his fine motor skills. His intrinsic hand muscles have gotten much stronger with specific work. The toughest part is the psychological side as I seem to be struggling with helping him with frustration, patience, never giving up in light of this condition. Life long work for this tough condition. The effort does pay off.

    • PaulaHenry1 profile image

      PaulaHenry1 4 years ago from America

      Personally no I don't. However, I have seen really good results with these.Core stability is key when dealing with this so your friend is right. And of course safety is an issue so this strap is great from self-harm. Thanks for commenting and best of luck w/ your g-baby!

    • profile image 4 years ago

      Hi Paula, just starting this journey with grandchild of 11 months. His mum has diagnosed hypermobility syndrome.

      Pending help have just invested in a "Happy strap 'which has made an enormous difference, at meals he doesn't rock and act like a moving target, and doesn't flail hands/trunk and feet when wearing it. A physio friend says its because it improves his core stability. Do you have any experience of this?

    • profile image

      nicci 4 years ago

      Thank you so much for this. I am in tears because my son has been seeing his doctor for months now and no one has mentioned this but he has the obvious symptoms- poor speech, trouble feeding, extremely difficult bowel movements, low muscle tone, he's tiny, and he can't walk yet at 18 months. I am definitely bringing this up with his doctor.

    • profile image

      gmab120900 5 years ago

      grandson just diagnosed with this! never heard of this thanks sooooo much!!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi Paulahenry1, I bookmarked this and will be referring to it often. My girlfriend's youngest son has Hyptomia - it's the first time I've ever heard of it. You gave so many great examples, videos and photos. Voted up and awesome. And your daughter is as sweet as can be. :)

    • flowers00 profile image

      flowers00 6 years ago from london

      hi i hope everything goes well x my daughter too has hypotonia and sees a physiotherapist you can read about it on my hub page x the physio will be good because it teaches them how to cope with it my daughter is 2 and a half and only started walking around 2 months ago x its very hard not to compare them toother children but it is good to sometimes but remember all children do things differently and at different ages x wish you the best and your children xx