Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a comprehensive behavior-oriented early intervention approach

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) was developed by psychologists Sally Rogers, PhD, and Profectum board member Geraldine Dawson, PhD in the 1980’s. It is a comprehensive behavior-oriented early intervention approach for children with autism, ages 12 to 48 months. This model incorporates intensive teaching practices drawn from applied behavior analysis (ABA) and a developmental curriculum which defines the skills to be taught at any given time, and a set of teaching procedures used to deliver this content. In addition, ESDM integrates play-based relational developmental approaches to address social communication.

Drawn from the fields of developmental psychology and applied behavior analysis, the ESDM program encompasses a developmental curriculum that defines the skills to be taught at any given time, a set of one-to-one teaching procedures used to deliver content, and also parent training. The Curriculum Checklist shapes treatment to the individual child and family. Parents choose the objectives that are important to them – and are active participants in the treatment. ESDM is not tied to a specific delivery setting, but can be delivered by therapy teams and/or parents in either a clinic setting or the child’s home.

More recently, Rogers has shifted treatment to inclusive settings, such as preschools with typically developing children, where supports are embedded into the classroom. Average treatment in this model is up to 20 hours per week for a period of two years. ESDM has been extensively researched with impressive results.

Key elements:

  • Naturalistic applied behavioral analytic strategies
  • Sensitivity to normal developmental sequence
  • Deep parental involvement
  • Focus on interpersonal exchange and positive affect
  • Shared engagement with joint activities
  • Language and communication taught inside a positive, effect-based relationship

Today, Sally Rogers, PhD and the “Denver Model” has moved from Colorado to California’s UC Davis MIND Institute. A new certification process is under way through the “Early Start Denver Model Lab” at the MIND Institute.

Link to the website for more information.