ESDM and Early Intervention: The Earlier the Better

“A treatment method or an educational method that will work for one child may not work for another child. The one common denominator for all of the young children is that early intervention does work, and it seems to improve the prognosis.” -Temple Grandin

Early intervention, as Temple Grandin points out, is a critical component of providing comprehensive care for children. Since the 1980s, the Early Denver Start Model, or EDSM, has been used to help children with autism develop cognitive, communication, and social skills. This method, which incorporates relationship-focused and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) strategies, has proven to be successful through extensive empirical data collected by therapists.

When should you start ESDM?
In order to build positive behaviors early on, ESDM typically begins by the time the child is between one to two years old. This allows the therapists to work with the child during the most critical years in their development when they are just acquiring their speech and language skills. Early intervention also allows children to build a strong foundation of skills (rather than work to replace problematic behaviors later on in development).

Why is ESDM effective?
As every child is a unique learner, it is important to consider the individual abilities and needs of each child when developing a treatment plan. ESDM allows for this personalization, as this method can be easily incorporated into play or natural routines in any setting. As a result, therapists can also integrate a range of skills into ESDM to address many skills.

The progress of ESDM can also be tracked through evidence-based empirical data. During a two-year period, children with autism who spent at least 20 hours per week with ESDM were shown to make more progress in adaptive behavior, cognition, and language skills than children with autism who did not have access to ESDM (Autism Speaks, n.d.).

What domains/skills does ESDM address?
ESDM targets a wide range of behaviors, including adaptive skills, cognition, language, and social interaction throughout the course of treatment. It is important to begin this treatment as early as possible when the behaviors are still very moldable and easily adapted.