What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are characterized by 3 main primary areas of difficulties – impaired social interaction, disturbed communication and the presence of restrictive, repetitive behaviours and interest (Wicks-Nelson & Israel, 2013).

What is Early Start Denver Model?
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a comprehensive play-based early intervention program that integrates Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) with developmental and relationship approaches’ (Eapen, Crncec & Walter, 2013). Autism Speaks Organisation (2013) listed out the core features in which ESDM focuses on:
• Naturalistic ABA strategies
• Sensitivity of typical developments
• Intensive parental involvement
• Focus on interpersonal exchange and positive affect
• Shared engagement with joint activities
• Language and communication taught through a positive, affect-based relationship

Benefits & Effectiveness of ESDM?
Autism Speaks Org. (2013) has supported that ‘The Early Start Denver Model is the only comprehensive early intervention model that has been validated in a randomized clinical trial for use with children with autism as young as 18 months of age’. Additionally, a randomized clinical trial of intervention for toddlers with autism, published in the journal Paediatrics that children who received ESDM therapy for 20 hours a week with the trained

therapists and parents respectively, over 2-years showed greater improvements in overall adaptive behaviour, communication skills (expressive and receptive language), daily living and motor skills, as compared to the children who received interventions commonly available in their communities.

In another research article published in BMC Paediatrics 2013, it studies about how the use of ESDM as an intervention strategy in a community group setting could greatly benefit children with autism. This study lasted for 10 months with children aged 49.6 months engaging in 15 to 20 hours of group based intervention and 1 hour of one-to-one interventions per week. Knowing the limitations of the children diagnosed with autism, this study has validated ESDM’s intervention strategies as it has met its goals of ‘enhancing social attention and communicative abilities of young children with ASD.’ Aside from social skills, ESDM has provided the child with a holistic improvement whereby it improved their cognitive abilities, motor skills and adaptive functioning abilities. The study has also shown how ESDM intervention strategy could significantly reduce a child’s autism-specific features.


Autism Speaks Organisation. (2013). The early start denver model (ESDM). Retrieved from http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/early-start-denver-model-esdm

Charman, T., Baron-Cohen, S., Swetthenham, J., Baird, G., Drew, A., & Cox, A. (2003). Predicting language outcome in infants with autism and pervasive developmental disorder. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorder, 38(3), 265–285.

Dawson, G., Rogers, S., Munson, J., Smith, M., Winter, J., Greenson, J., … Varley, J. (2009). Randomized, controlled trial of an intervention for toddlers with autism: The early start denver model. Pediatrics, 125, e15 – e23. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-0985

Eapen, V., Crncec, R., & Walter, A. (2013). Clinical outcomes of an early intervention program for preschool children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a community group setting. Biomedcentral Pediatrics, 13, 0-9.

Wicks-Nelson, R., & Israel, A. C. (2013). Abnormal child and adolescent psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.