Sara & I recently attended the Introductory Workshop to the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) in Porto, Portugal. The event had been organised by a local charity, established by parents of children with autism. Sally Rogers, one of the founders of the ESDM, had been invited to present and also launch the ESDM curriculum in Portuguese.
The ESDM is an assessment tool and curriculum especially designed for children with autism under the age of 5. It has been developed based on the principles of developmental psychology as well as ABA. The research that Sally presented, discussing autism as well as the effectiveness of the model was fascinating. One of the biggest studies consisted of 150 children, where half of the children received ESDM therapy on average 20 hours a week and the other half received other therapies available in the community. Over a two year period, the children that received ESDM showed significant improvement in IQ scores, expressive language, adaptive behaviour and their ADOS scores in comparison to the children receiving other therapies.
The ESDM curriculum is specifically designed to be assessed and delivered by a multidisciplinary team. The team works together to consult on their specialised area, but one person would be delivering the therapy and parent training for better continuity. The curriculum is separated into several domains including receptive understanding, expressive language, play skills, social skills, self-help skills, gross and fine motor skills. There are 4 levels within each domain which are in developmental order. 2-3 targets per domain are identified during the assessment and taught in sessions. They are then reviewed every 12 weeks.
All of these targets are worked on during play activities and throughout the day we were shown videos of great NETs where children would be working on their targets while having lots of fun with their parents or a therapist. It’s something that we always try and incorporate into therapy sessions but it’s always great to refresh and learn something new that can only enhance what we do. I’m really looking forward to using the ESDM curriculum with clients in the foreseeable future.
By Rhian Thorne
Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst