The Early Start Denver Model is a method used in ABA therapy that targets joint attention and actively encourages kids to communicate with others. Joint attention routines involve two or more partners effectively carrying out an activity. In joint attention routines, the theme of the activity is decided together and is then played out until one of the partners is no longer interested. The goal for communicating with others is to share ideas, interests, goals, and reciprocal acts. These joint attention routines help children develop the ability to share their likes and dislikes.
For the ESDM, open communication and joint attention is the key to therapy. Instead of working around the deficit that most children on the spectrum have with social communication, ESDM uses joint attention as one of the main ways to teach. Therapists try to amplify the importance of interaction instead of simplifying it. A couple ways the therapists can engage the child in joint activities during therapy is by using toys that the child prefers or by singing songs or acting out routines. For example, when starting a routine, the therapist and the child are both sitting on the floor, face to face, and then the therapist will initiate an activity. If the joint routine for the session involves singing a song, the therapist will start by singing an interactive song and then pausing and waiting for the child to join in. Once the therapist starts the song, they will both take turns interacting until the song is finished, or the child has lost interest. A song used frequently in therapy is the “wheels on a bus” song. The therapist would usually sing the main parts of the song while the child chimes in for the chorus. Songs are a great way to engage children in joint activities because they promote turn taking.