The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

  • What Is the Early Start Denver Model?

    The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a comprehensive behavioral early intervention approach for children with autism, ages 12 to 48 months. The program encompasses a developmental curriculum that defines the skills to be taught at any given time and a set of teaching procedures used to deliver this content. It is not tied to a specific delivery setting, but can be delivered by therapy teams and/or parents in group programs or individual therapy sessions in either a clinic setting or the child’s home.

    Psychologists Sally Rogers, Ph.D., and Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., developed the Early Start Denver Model as an early-age extension of the Denver Model, which Rogers and colleagues developed and refined. This early intervention program integrates a relationship-focused developmental model with the well-validated teaching practices of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Its core features include the following:

    • Naturalistic applied behavioral analytic strategies
    • Sensitive 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, affect-based relationship