The Early Start Denver Model, or ESDM, is an intensive, early intervention approach designed specifically for children with autism ages 1-3 years. While it is common belief that children cannot get a diagnosis of autism until they are about 3 years old, there are many early signs of autism that appear before the age of three. Pediatricians are able to take note of these signs and if they are concerned, can then refer the child to an ABA therapist who is knowledgable about the ESDM process. This approach focuses on many aspects of autism and develops goals based around your child’s strengths and weaknesses. It centers the therapy around promoting social communication and social behavior through play, imitation, sharing and joint attention. It utilizes the child’s specific interests to engage and motivate them for each of the therapy sessions.
A key aspect that makes the ESDM model so successful is the intensity of the program. It requires multiple hours a week for maximum effectiveness. Children with autism tend to have less social interactions and therefore less opportunities for social learning. Through this demanding therapy approach, the child gets many more opportunities to learn and therefore develop, than they would in a typical day.
Another important factor of the ESDM program is the direct inclusion of parents in the implementation of therapy. Therapists will teach parents specific at-home techniques that they can use to continue therapy after the sessions with the therapist have ended. Through the continuation of therapy-based practices, your child will benefit greatly and develop their skills at an even faster rate.
If you or your doctor have specific concerns about your child, finding an ABA therapist and starting an ESDM therapy program is one of the best things you can do for them. If you would like more information regarding the ESDM model, here are a few resources to help you gain more knowledge and help your child get the support they need right away.