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What Is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)?

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The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a therapy for children with autism between the ages of 2 and 4. It teaches new skills through play-based activities designed for each child’s needs. It helps the child improve their communication and interaction with others.


Frequently Asked Question


Who can benefit from ESDM?

ESDM is designed for children with autism between the ages of 2 and 4, but it can also be helpful for older children or even adults with autism. It can be used in a variety of settings, including therapy sessions, at home, in early intervention programs, and in special education settings.


What kind of results can be expected from ESDM?

ESDM has been shown to be very effective in helping children with autism make important progress in their development, including improvements in their communication and interaction skills. Children who participate in ESDM typically show significant gains in their ability to learn and engage with others.


How does ESDM differ from other therapies for autism?

ESDM is unique in that it is specifically designed for young children with autism and focuses on play-based activities to help them develop new skills. It also places a strong emphasis on working with families and incorporating the therapy into daily life, which is not always the case with other autism therapies.


Scientific Definition


The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a type of therapy that helps children with autism and is designed for children between 2 and 4 years old. ESDM aims to help the child learn new skills and improve their ability to communicate and interact with others. This is done using fun, play-based activities tailored to the child’s needs and abilities. The therapist will work with the child and their family to teach new skills and help the child practice using them in different situations. ESDM is based on the latest research about how children with autism learn and grow, and it has proven to be very effective. By using ESDM, children with autism can make significant progress in their development, and their families can learn new ways to support them.


Video Explanation


Real World Example of Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

Meet Susie, a bright and curious four-year-old girl with autism who is benefiting from the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) therapy:

  • Susie eagerly attends her therapy sessions, where her therapist engages her in play-based activities designed specifically to improve her communication and social skills.
  • During their sessions, Susie’s therapist focuses on teaching her new skills, such as using gestures to communicate, taking turns in conversations, and imitating actions.
  • With the support of her therapist and family, Susie practices these skills in various situations, including at home, at the park, and during playdates with friends.
  • Using the ESDM approach, Susie’s progress is remarkable. She begins to express her needs and emotions using words and gestures, engaging in meaningful interactions with others.
  • Susie’s parents actively participate in therapy, learning valuable strategies to support her development and reinforce the skills she learns during sessions.

Through ESDM, Susie’s journey becomes one of growth, as she gains confidence, expands her communication abilities, and embraces new opportunities for connection and learning.

How Does Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) Work?

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is an effective therapy for children with autism that focuses on improving their communication and social skills. Here are some key points to understand how ESDM works:

  • Play-based activities: ESDM utilizes fun and engaging play-based activities tailored to the child’s needs and abilities.
  • Individualized approach: Therapists work closely with the child and their family to develop a personalized treatment plan.
  • Targeted skill development: ESDM aims to teach new skills and behaviors, such as language, social interaction, and daily living skills.
  • Generalization of skills: The therapy focuses on helping the child apply and generalize the learned skills in various settings and situations.
  • Parent involvement: ESDM encourages active involvement of parents in therapy sessions and provides them with strategies to support their child’s progress.

ESDM offers an effective approach for children with autism to enhance their communication and social abilities. Goally, our tablet product, complements ESDM therapy by offering fun apps for kids to build life and language skills. From digital schedules to emotional regulation and social skills training, Goally provides engaging tools that align with ESDM goals.


This post was originally published on Feb. 2, 2023. It was updated on July 19, 2023.