Hypermobility, low muscle tone, crossing midline… You may have heard of these terms in your Occupational Therapy session or report before… but what do they actually mean?! Whether you’re a student, therapist or family member, we hope this blog post provides concise and easy to understand definitions of standard OT terms!
Low Muscle Tone (or hypotonia)
Refers to a low amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle. Muscles will appear floppy and loose. This often results in children needing to put in more effort when moving around and completing activities.
When joints can move beyond the normal range of motion. Most commonly seen in wrists, fingers, elbows, and knees. It can result in pain, stiffness and fatigue.
Ability to use both of the bodies in an organised manner. Requires both sides of the brain to work together at the same time. Activities that involve bilateral coordination include:
- clapping hands
- catching a ball
- tying shoelaces
Ability to move an arm or leg across the imaginary line in the middle of the body when completing a task. It promotes the coordination of the left and right sides of the brain and is vital for everyday tasks such as:
- tying shoelaces
Lying on one’s stomach and face is positioned downward.
Lying on one’s back and face is positioned upward.
The sense that is responsible for body awareness. This includes knowledge of where our body parts are, how they move and how much strength our muscles need to use. Activities such as handwriting, playing sports, jumping and lifting all require a lot of proprioceptive input.
The sense that is responsible for movement, gravity and balance. The vestibular system is located in our inner ear and tells our brain where we are in space and the speed we are moving. It contributes to our ability to balance, stabilise our head and body during movement and maintain an upright posture.
The sense that is responsible for telling us what’s happening inside our bodies. Inside our body are nerve receptors that send information to the brain, allowing us to identify and respond to what our body is feeling. Pain, hunger, coldness, heat, fullness, nausea, the need to go to the toilet and emotional states are all examples of senses that can be felt through interoception.
A set of mental skills that enable us to plan, focus, organise and complete a task or multiple tasks at once. In occupational therapy, we break it into eight categories:
- impulse control
- emotional control
- flexible thinking
- working memory
- planning and sequencing
- task initiation
The ability to plan, organise, and carry out a body movement correctly and in a coordinated manner.
Visual Perceptual Skills
The ability to interpret and make sense of what the eyes see. Visual perceptual skills are essential for everyday tasks such as:
- self-help skills like tying shoelaces.
The different visual perceptual skills include:
- form constancy
- visual discrimination
- figure-ground perception
- visual closure
- visual memory
- visual-motor integration
Visual-Motor Skills (or Visual-Motor Integration)
Visual-motor integration encompasses the underlying skills of visual perception and motor coordination. The ability to interpret visual information then be able to coordinate a motor action in response. For example:
- catching a ball
- copying visual information
The ability to move our eyes accurately and efficiently to follow a moving object. This skill is used for almost every daily activity, such as:
- playing sports
The ability to adjust and control one’s energy level, alertness, emotions, behaviour and attention in response to environmental demands. This skill is essential for everyday functioning, and some children may need more support to implement strategies that support the nervous system.
Sensory Processing (or Sensory Modulation)
The neurological process involves perceiving, processing and organising sensory information from the environment and responding with an appropriate behavioural response. The eight sensory systems include:
- auditory (sound)
- olfactory (smell)
- gustatory (taste)
- tactile (touch)
A person might be hypersensitive (overly responsive), sensory avoidant, or hypersensitive (under-responsive) and may demonstrate sensory-seeking behaviours.