Skip to content

Using “Every Move Counts” As An LMA For Students With Severe Multiple Disabilities

by Nancy M. Toelle, Quality Programs for Students with Visual Impairments

As an admirer and long-time user of the Koenig-Holbrook Learning Media Assessment, I recognized that it had little application for my most involved students. The Use of Sensory Channels form almost always provides useful information, but for students who are subtly or minimally responsive, I was not happy with any instrument I tried until I was trained to use “Every Move Counts Sensory Based Communication Techniques” by Korsten, Dunn, Foss, and Francke. The following is a description of how the EMC can be used as an LMA. I suggest that you find someone trained and experienced with the EMC if you decide you would like to give it a try with a student.

EMC starts with the “Sensory Response Assessment”, which provides opportunities to identify student likes and dislikes in the following areas: vestibular, tactile, visual, olfactory, gustatory, auditory, and causality. The directions on page 24 of the handbook list materials you will need, directions for administering the assessment and what to look for in the way of purposeful responses. I have always found it essential to conduct this assessment as a team member with all or as many other people on the student’s team as possible. Parents are always included, as they are the most skilled observers and interpreters of their child’s responses. It is helpful to video tape the session, which can be reviewed if differences of opinion occur and to be used as baseline data.

The assessment itself is VERY specific and the offer of stimuli is carefully timed and monitored so that it can be administered in 30-45 minutes, depending on the child’s ability to tolerate that length of engagement. For example, to assess the student’s response to vestibular stimuli, the assessor rocks the child back and forth (in lap if age appropriate) for 15 seconds, while team members observe student response. There is a pause for 5 seconds and then repeat for a total of 3 trials. Observers mark responses for all three trials as positive or negative and then with a numeric score for intensity of response, using a scale provided in the directions. So, the student may REALLY like or dislike rocking, may not respond at all, may take all three trials to respond. All three of those responses would provide information that is useful in developing student specific programming and identifying appropriate learning media.

The assessment continues in this way through all the sensory areas and also assessing the student’s response to cause and effect activities. At the end of the assessment, if the student has responded, either positively or negatively, the TVI will be able to reflect this information in an LMA report and to use that information as the data upon which learning media decisions are made.

I’ve included an LMA Report template based on the EMC that can be used to record results and be inserted in the student’s file. Use the space beside each sensory area to record the student’s responses, both positive and negative. Also, note any further probes needed. Indicate the child’s primary and secondary learning channels.

One of the reasons I am so fond of the EMC assessment is that it gives concrete data on what the child likes, or responds to in a positive way. That data can be folded into schedules and activity routines that use the power of pleasurable sensation as the motivator for the student. I’ve had many opportunities and remarkable success using the results of EMC team assessments to start simple routines in student programming. Once you know what the child experiences as pleasurable, and you’ve refined your ability to “read” responses, formulating and monitoring routines and schedules is much easier.

EMC - Learning Media Assessment Report Template

Student: _____________________ D.O.B. __________ District: _________

Date(s) of Assessment: ____________

Video: Yes No

Parents included: Yes  No

Team members/positions: ___________________________________________


The “Every Move Counts” sensory-based assessment was used to identify the student’s responses to sensory stimuli. We will use these results to determine what options exist for positive responses to a variety of learning media. In this way, we will be able to build programming, such as schedules and routines, around stimuli and media that evoke positive or pleasurable responses. The following results were obtained during the assessment, which was observed and scored by the team members listed above.

  1. Vestibular stimulation:
    • Further probes needed:
  1. Tactile:
    • Further probes needed:
  1. Visual: (if applicable)
    • Further probes needed:
  1. Olfactory:
    • Further probes needed:
  1. Gustatory: (if applicable)
    • Further probes needed:
  1. Auditory: (if applicable)
    • Further probes needed:
  1. Causality:
    • Further probes needed:

Based on the student’s responses, the assessment team feels that he/she prefers the following

sensory stimuli and learning media: _____________________________________________



Primary Learning Channel: __________ Secondary Learning Channel: ___________

_________________________________ signed (TVI)