Wednesday, October 26, 2011

31 for 21: #26 Low Muscle Tone...or as I like to call it, Strong-as-an-Ox

Yeah.  This is a silly rant.

I would just like to warn any new-ish parents about a flaw in the "Low Muscle Tone" diagnosis.  It doesn't really mean, what you think it means.  It means that their muscles have too much "play".  The muscles are too loosely connecting the joints and until they are exercised a little, the babies have a hard time engaging them, because so much effort is required to engage the muscle in a movement.

As your baby grows and figures out how to engage, you will discover that the muscles themselves may actually be stronger than the average baby.  I don't know if this comes in as the difficulty to tell the brain to disengage, or what...but I have yet to meet a baby, child, or adult with Downs, who was fairly healthy, who wasn't as strong as 20 men.  Okay, a little exaggeration, but you get my point.

The first time I really came up on this, I was in college.  I taught swim lessons.  A mother hired me to "teach" her boy with Downs.  I have that in quotes, because, in her words, her "only real goal, is to help him panic less."  She was hoping that some regular, expected, interchange in the pool would help him overcome his fear of the water.  (As a mother with a similar child and similar goal with my own, I think it was just a hopeful thinking kind of trial.)

This job came when I was particularly fit...I was toying with doing a triathalon.  I was running, biking, swimming, and lifting weights regularly.  I was swimming constantly as a part of my job, on top of my recreational regime. 

When I worked with this boy, who was probably seven or eight-ish, I fought to keep his body in a proper position for swimming, and yet, keep him secure so he could calm down enough to attempt what I was asking him to do.  I cannot begin to tell you how badly this taxed my muscles.  I hurt so badly the day following his swim lessons, I had to take ibuprofen just to get out of bed and move.  No kidding.  It took all the days between his lessons to recover for the next one. 

I will tell you as a side note, I was successful.  At the end of the 8 weeks, 2 times a week, that little boy would willingly get in the pool and paddle while I was holding him.  And he actually enjoyed it!  I felt like I had won the lottery.  I was so PROUD!  :)  His mother was shocked and thrilled. 

I have several stories that are generally similar.  I have spoken to numerous mothers and fathers who have kids with Downs and we all giggle about our freakishly strong, low muscle tone kiddos...

SO.  If you find yourself wrestling with your child with Downs, telling yourself that you should TOTALLY be stronger than them, that they have low-muscle-tone-for-pity-sake!!  And that you find yourself a little worried how much longer that you can "take" them?  You are not alone.  But I really have yet to be able to explain it. 

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