Introduction to the EMI

One of the foremost developmental tasks of early childhood is learning how to move for locomotion and to achieve basic goals. Children’s early movement patterns set the stage for attainment of many other developmental outcomes, including physical, cognitive, and social/emotional development. Consequently, a major focus of early education and early care is the development of young children’s movement skills (National Research Council, 2001). Movement also is a desired general outcome of early intervention that parents and professionals identify as important for young children. The ability to move was one of 15 general child outcome statements investigated by a national sample of parents (n=351) and professionals (n=672) (Priest et al., 2001). Of the 15 general outcomes examined in the study, movement competency was among the most highly rated. Other highly valued general outcomes included expressive communication, social skills, problem-solving, among others (Priest et al., 2001).

Movement and motor terms are sometimes used interchangeably but they actually refer to different constructs. Movement commonly refers to the observable behaviors related to a change in posture or locomotion. Motor commonly refers to the neuromuscular or other non-observable, internal processes or traits assumed to affect movement behavior. Because assessment of the motor abilities of young children is traditionally relegated to highly skilled occupational and physical therapists, early interventionists often face difficulties obtaining information on movement skill building that is sensitive, timely, and relevant to the work that they perform.

One of the most important missions of early intervention is to provide children with opportunities and experiences that promote learning to move. Whether the intervention is home-based or center-based, a critical outcome for our youngest children is to help them increase proficiency in movement. Movement competence is a widely accepted and highly valued general outcome in early childhood.

The Early Movement Indicator (EMI) is one means of checking children’s growth toward the important general outcome of being able to move in a fluent and coordinated manner to play and participate in home, school, and community settings. Because children’s rate of growth in movement competency is so critical, the rate of growth on the EMI for each child and for all the children in a program become important indicators of how well a program is doing in supporting children’s movement proficiency. As such, the EMI can be a powerful tool for monitoring individual children’s growth and making intervention decisions. It can also provide helpful information on program progress and inform programmatic decisions regarding this outcome.

Early Movement Indicator (EMI) Key Skills

One way for early interventionists to measure progress toward proficiency in early movement in infants and toddlers is the Early Movement Indicator (EMI). The EMI is a play-based observational measure of a child’s movement during a 6-minute play period with specific EMI toys and a familiar adult.

EMI Conceptual Framework

The five movement skills that make up the EMI are based on a conceptual
review of the literature followed by validation with other criterion measures of movement and motor ability for children this age (see Technical Soundness). The five key skill elements are: Transition in Position, Grounded Locomotion, Vertical Locomotion, Throw/Roll, and Catch/Trap. These skills were selected to represent the postural movement domain (Transition in Position), the locomotion domain (Grounded and Vertical), and the object control domain (Throw/Roll, Catch/Trap); three skill classes that are important for children who are just acquiring movement skills. The rates of occurrence of these key skills form a single indicator of Total Movement.