November 26, 2015
I am writing with regards to the Empowering Steps Program at Club Aviva. My 10 year old daughter Gabriella and 7 year old son Sebastian attend private sessions 2x a week since September 2015 and attended 1x a week last year from October 2014 to June 2015. Gabriella and Sebastian have sensory issues that make daily living a constant challenge in every aspect. Gabriella has level 2 Autism and they both have a diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder, Anxiety and Hyperacusis. Initially our lives were dramatically affected by Gabriella’s physical and emotional ability to be more independent, within the first 2 months she became capable of stepping in and out of the bathtub and car and began climbing up and down the stairs with both feet and no fear. Following this she became stronger and no longer fell on her face when using her arms to support her weight. Sebastian’s fear of heights lessened and confidence increased. By springtime both Gabriella and Sebastian could sit at a desk and no longer slouched over the desk and held their heads up with their hands while working. Soon their health increased as well (infections and reactions to colds and flu) and Gabriella had stamina to do more things in a day without needing as much down time. Sebastian no longer ran around the playground or clinging to the first rung of the climbing equipment terrified or having me climb up holding him while he clung on, he could climb and crawl across to the slide and go down and soon began walking across to the slide verbalizing he was no longer scared of heights, although he still had reservations until one day he was more confident and could do it while I waited at the slide. He could also be pushed on the swing without being terrified and started using the big kids swing and disk swing at the park. Sebastian is now able to share with the therapist when he feels apprehensive about height and I do not see him walking on tip toes with his fingers spread apart after certain activities like climbing a ladder using opposite arms and legs in his sessions. Gabriella is more confident to express herself to the therapists. Gabriella is also making connections to situations, how it relates to her or her body and that she can do something about it, this is a major accomplishment. Gabriella and Sebastian have made notable progress in their capacity to learn sequences (up to 10-12 for Gabriella), and have had a dramatic increase in their long and short term memory. Gabriella has learned to multitask from a list of 3-4 things to do at home and both can follow a 3 step direction to completion. This is amazing in our daily life and has attributed to their new found confidence and self esteem. Gabriella has learned how to read in the last month! Sebastian, for the first time has been interested in learning how to spell his name and attempts to write short words and copy longer ones, he is becoming more open to doing “school work”. This has been a truly life changing experience and is THE only place both of my children will come without exception, hesitation, anxiety or aversion due to multiple sensory factors such as noise or the feeling of clothes or possibility of a staff change. Friends and family have noticed many new changes and enjoy the new willingness to be hugged and desire to interact. All of these amazing changes can be attributed to this program and have been recognized by our doctor as well. I feel it is important to share the following, the fun factor of gymnastics is not what draws Gabriella and Sebastian to attending regularily, as my children will refuse to get dressed or get in the car to go to Toys ‘R us to get a prize even if they are dying for it or go to the park when they really want to. I believe the staff (and program) create a consistently safe, positive place that is respectful of their feelings and abilities at all times. They respond well to this and have a desire to be there without exception and in doing so enjoy the feeling of their confidence and self esteem that have resulted. I am extremely impressed with this visionary program, and dedicated staff. The success of my children over the past year is a direct result of the therapists ability to carry out the program with enthusiasm, patience, adaptability, positive attitude and outlook as well as a desire to motivate and maintain goals in a purely positive way. The exceptional part is that all of the therapists are seamlessly interchangeable, it is amazing and highly unusualfor any organization to have all of its staff be interchangeable at any given time or day, especially for children that do not like change, I give credit to Vivien, her leadership and her tailored program (and of course the dedicated therapists). Vivian is a true leader for children with differing abilities and challenges and I would not hesitate to recommend her program to everyone.