The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a comprehensive early intervention approach for young children with autism (ages 12 to 60 months).ESDM integrates a relationship-focused developmental model with the teaching practices of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA). ESDM combines the science of learning with developmentally-appropriate ways of interacting with children.
The skills taught in ESDM include:
i. - communication
ii. - social skills
iii. - play
iv. - fine motor
v. - gross motor
vi. - personal independence.
The above skills are targeted in developmental sequence. Teaching happens during natural routines and play-based activities.
The goal of the model is to use play to increase children’s interest in activities and other people. It also aims to improve communication skills and self-expression, helping children with ASD get along with others – especially their parents.
ESDM is one of the only few intervention approaches that has demonstrated efficacy with children with ASD as young as 12-18 months in randomized controlled clinical trials.
It has been found to be effective for children with ASD across a wide range of learning styles and abilities (children with more significant learning needs also benefited from the ESDM).
A randomized clinical trial showed that children, who received ESDM therapy, showed greater improvement in cognitive and language abilities and adaptive behaviour and fewer autism symptoms.
ESDM was developed by two Psychologists: Dr. Sally Rogers and Dr. Geraldine Dawson.
ESDM can be delivered in almost any setting, including home-based and clinic-based settings.
ESDM can be delivered by Parents and by professionals.
The involvement of parents is crucial. Parents and their priorities and values are at the core of the child's intervention program.
In summary, ESDM is a teaching approach that “seeks to empower children with ASD to become active participants in the world, initiating interactions with other people.” (Rogers S.J. and Dawson G. (2010) , Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism: Promoting Language, Learning, and Engagement. New York: The Guilford Press, pg. xi).