The Empowering Steps Movement Therapy (ESMT) program is a community-based, family centred, fully inclusive gymnastics and aquatic movement program for children and youth with developmental disabilities.
About Empowering Steps Movement Therapy (ESMT)
Empowering Steps is an innovative approach towards the treatment of developmental disabilities. It was designed by Vivien Symington (BA/BPHE Queen's University) who, through her work with a number of non-verbal, low functioning autistic children, recognized a connection between motor skill development and readiness for acquisition of other skills.
The ESMT program is non-categorical. This means that children are involved on the basis of functional need only, not medical diagnosis or degree of severity. It is considered one part of a community-based, family centered, collaborative, management plan for children with complex developmental disabilities. It does not seek to compete with established therapies, but to augment them in a fun, safe, normal recreational environment.
The goal is to guide children with limted motor movements into using functional gross and fine motor movements. In doing so, we hope to transform inappropriate behavior, closed and disordered communication into appropriate and purposeful mannerisms. Every child has a specialized program that is delivered either one-to-one or in small groups to allow both individual attention and opportunities for social interaction. Empowering Steps allows the child and their therapist to interact in an environment that is fun, showing the child that our world is beautiful and exciting. Moreover, this promotes the child's natural excitement and enthusiasm to foster social interaction.
Empowering Steps also works with other professionals to encourage the child towards reading, writing, number concepts, symbolic play and meaningful inclusion within typical environments outside of the gym and aqua setting.
A key therapeutic component of the ESMT program is the unique "Gym Culture", an attitude of consistent, heartfelt encouragement, care, inclusivity, and support for all children and parents. ESMT gym culture is practiced by all staff at all times and expected of all participants who train at ESMT gyms.