Early Start Denver Model

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a comprehensive early intervention program that integrates behavioral, relationship-based, and developmental approaches into an intensive, evidence-based intervention program for children between 18 months and six years of age with autism and their families. Children participating in the ESDM receive a minimum of 12 to 25 hours of individualized home and center-based programming carried out by trained interventionists and parents during natural routines and play-based activities.  Activity routines are developmentally appropriate and child-friendly, incorporating empirically supported teaching practices from applied-behavioral analysis within the natural contexts and relationships that are critical to the development of the child. The ESDM is well supported by research and has proven effective for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) across a wide range of learning styles and abilities.

What does a Typical Session Look Like?

Typically, an EDSM session looks like play. Children are engaged in “joint activity routines” during which the play activities chosen by the child, interventionist and/or caretaker are crafted to meet individualized objectives across all developmental domains.  Thus something as simple as playing with bubbles can become an opportunity for your child to learn to  look at her play partner while requesting more;  engage in turn taking and shared attention; imitate the actions of her play partner;  unscrew a cap and manipulate bubble toys; engage in pretend play by giving the doll a bubble bath; etc.   Each session includes multiple play/learning opportunities during which all of your child’s specific developmental goals can be addressed. Measurable progress in these areas are documented throughout each session and reviewed and adjusted weekly.  Once your child is able to demonstrate a skill frequently, across various environments and with different “play partners” then we know he has mastered that skill. 

 Who Provides Intervention within the Early Start Denver Model?

The ESDM starts with a comprehensive developmental assessment by an interdisciplinary team of experts in child development who will work with you to develop an individualized, intensive program of learning for your child.  Our team at Play2Grow includes a developmental psychologist and occupational therapist with advanced training in the ESDM, and a speech therapist who consults in the development of the program goals.  This ensures that children and families are served by a program that is fully informed by experts in social-emotional, cognitive, communication, and sensory-motor development.

Each week a child receives a minimum of 12 to 15 hours of home-based services by a trained and supervised intervention worker; ESDM sessions delivered by the occupational therapist and developmental psychologist in collaboration with the home interventionist and parent; and a parent coaching session.  In addition our center provides psychology, occupational therapy, and speech therapy services.  Every person who works with your child in your home and center is trained by our interdisciplinary team, and highly supervised thus ensuring a high quality, responsive program. 

More intensive parent training, with parents serving as the primary "interventionist" for the child throughout their daily routines and within play time is always an option.

Where Does the ESDM Take Place?

The goal of ESDM programming is for children to generalize skills across various settings in interactions with parents, siblings, therapists, teachers and peers. For this reason “natural” environments and opportunities become a critical part of your child’s program. Our program is currently designed to provide home-based intervention four to five days per week and center-based intervention 1-2 times per week. Opportunities for support within a preschool, play group, or other community settings depend upon each child’s individual objectives and stage of development.

 Why Choose the Early Start Denver Model?

  • The ESDM draws upon a broad scientific base of research across multiple fields specializing in development and has demonstrated effectiveness in a variety of well-designed clinical trials.
  • The ESDM focuses on all domains of development and is specifically constructed for toddlers and young children both in curriculum and interactional teaching styles.
  • The ESDM incorporates the expertise of an interdisciplinary team in assessment and treatment. Psychology, speech and occupational therapy is integrated into your program.
  • The ESDM is “transportable” into every natural setting in which children participate.
  • The ESDM is fun. Its focus on positive relationships and interactions provide plenty of reinforcement for parents, children, therapists and teachers.
  • The ESDM is family friendly.  As a parent your relationship with your child is critical to his or her development and supported in every aspect of the program. In addition as your child’s first teacher and advocate you will participate in setting treatment objectives and activities that are priorities for your family. 

 What is the Cost of the ESDM?

The ESDM is comparable to the cost of intensive ABA services nationally. Because the services are intensive, individualized and require highly skilled interventionists most programs are comparable to the cost of a good private school annually. In Oregon, new legislation requiring reimbursement of intensive behavioral services for young children with autism is now allowing greater access to cost- effective programming for all children. This legislation specifically identifies psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists as well as Board Certified Behavior Analysts as providers of behavioral intervention for children with autism.  The ESDM program falls under the mandate for coverage of ABA services. We are currently working with insurance companies to move forward with reimbursement of these services.  If your insurance program covers ABA we can work with you to determine the coverage and cost of the ESDM option. 

 Next Steps . . . .

ESDM services are provided through Play2Grow Behavioral Therapy.  If you are interested in intensive autism services using the Early Start Denver Model please contact Carol Markovics at Play2Grow Behavioral Therapy for an intake consultation and together we can explore whether our services will meet your needs.

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