What is the Origin of ESDM?

The Early Start Denver Model, or ESDM, can be an excellent early intervention approach for children with autism. ESDM was first introduced in the 1980s as a way to build a pivotal skills, including cognitive, language, social interactions, and adaptive skills in children ranging from 12 months to five years old. ESDM is a unique method, as it is evidence-based, relationship-focused, and incorporates Applied Behavior Analysis (or ABA) therapy.

What does an ESDM session look like?
One of the reasons professionals choose to use ESDM is because it can easily be used during play or typical routines, eliminating the need to transition into a new structured activity. This aspect of ESDM can be particularly beneficial for children with autism who may have difficulty transitioning between activities or environments. ESDM can be used in a variety of settings, and so it is possible to personalize therapy to fit the unique abilities and needs of every child. Professionals may use ESDM during toy play or through songs to keep the child engaged and to teach new skills.

What specific skills does ESDM target?

  • Expressive communication (send a message)
  • Receptive communication (interpret or understand a message)
  • Play skills
  • Fine motor skills (coordination of small muscles, such as those used in writing)
  • Gross motor skills (coordination of large muscles, such as those used in walking)
  • Personal independence behavior
  • Imitation
  • Cognition
  • Social skills

Why is ESDM effective?
Throughout ESDM, therapists collect data to show the progress of the child, which provides empirical support for the success of this therapy method. Evidence-based methods, such as ESDM, allow for the parents and team of professionals to track the precise skills that have been mastered by the child. ESDM also focuses on the whole child, meaning the child can transfer the skills learned in therapy to other aspects of their daily life.

Who is involved in ESDM therapy?
In order to effectively treat the whole child, ESDM relies on the involvement of a team of professionals, as well as the parents or caregivers of the child. This family-centered care also allows for the child to practice using these new skills in the home, not solely during the school day. The team of professionals involved in ESDM can also include speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and board certified behavior analysts (a multidisciplinary approach).

Do you have questions about ESDM or think your child might benefit from this method of therapy? Contact us to learn more about the use of ESDM and ABA therapy at Chicago ABA Therapy!