When Jacob was born, I read a bunch of the literature on what to expect. Most of it depressed me, quite frankly. I didn't know that Jacob had a decreased risk of this or that. I wanted to know what to expect in terms of development, and what virtually every child of Down syndrome had in common.
I quickly discovered that, like typically developing children, those with Down syndrome develop and grow at different rates, have different difficulties, and varying types of cognitive abilities. However, one attribute, which appears to be across
the board for children who have Down syndrome is their low muscle tone.
Originally, I thought that meant Jacob would be weaker than typically developing children. BOY was I wrong. In fact, it was the exact opposite. How is it that a a child, with an un-correct AVSD heart condition needed THREE nurses to hold him down for IV's? Then there's the walking. That happened at 13 months. Where's the delay in that? And aside from a slight delay to catch up from being immobile the first 3 months of his life, Jake quickly built up steam and now exceeds nearly all physical expectations for kids his age.
And now that Jacob is 6 1/2, I'm forced to begin weight training because he is just about stronger than me. Scary, huh?
So, low muscle tone does NOT mean weak muscles. Then what does it mean? For a more detailed explanation, you can go to Wikipedia. They're the most straight forward and comprehensive. Essentially it means hyper-flexibility, and (sometimes) weak muscles, or muscle resistance. For Jacob, it's TOTALLY hyper-flexibility.
Jacob's preferred position to sleep is folded in half, laying on his legs, occasionally sucking (or biting on his toe nails). Sadly, I don't think I've ever cut his toenails (please don't gag. I've done enough of that for all of us).
On the bus, Jacob wears a harness that has 2 straps for his feet, a vest that goes over his shoulders, and zips in back. He's managed to slide out of that thing too.
He's slid out of his 5-point harness on his car seat (don't get me started on that one!), out of my arms if he's throwing a tantrum, or wedge himself into a drawer or a tiny cupboard. I can't tell you how many times I've run through the house frantically calling his name, to find him grinning from ear to ear because he'd successfully hid from me. Sigh.
My boy is Houdini. He can get out of EVERYTHING. If he were in a straight jacket, he'd find a way.
Luckily, he spends a lot of time in PT and OT, learning to strengthen his joints and his core. Heaven knows, the rest of his body doesn't need to be any stronger.
Needless to say, this little boy keeps me, and the rest of our family, on our toes! Good thing we learned fast that low muscle tone does not equate to weak muscles, or any excuse to treat our child any differently from the rest of the kids in our home.
If anything, Jake's low muscle tone gives him an advantage. Sometimes it's like the kid has four arms - quite handy when he and his 17-year-old brother are wrestling in the living room. Or his hands are full, and he needs a little extra leverage with something he's playing with.
Never a dull day with Jacob around. Never.