Queensland's most experienced provider of specialised education and therapy services for individuals with ASD.

Early Start Denver Model

What is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)? 

The ESDM is an early intervention model designed to target the key features of autism of children under the age of 5 years. Autism Queensland is also the only provider in Queensland with staff qualifed to deliver this evidence-based intervention. 

How does it work?

The ESDM involves intensive teaching within a play-based curriculum with relationship-focused routines and strategies (KU Children’s Services, 2011). It is supported by principles of developmental psychology and the pivotal response treatment component of Applied Behaviour Analysis. 

It draws upon several different but complementary approaches, including the Denver model (Rogers et al 1986), Rogers and Pennington’s model of autism as a disorder of social motivation (1991), and Dawson and colleagues’ model of autism as a disorder of social motivation (2004). It builds upon these through the following techniques (summarised from Rogers and Dawson, 2010):

  • Use of Positive Affect
  • Play as the Frame for the Intervention
  • Intensive Teaching
  • Positive Behaviour Approach for Unwanted Behaviours
  • Family Involvement.
How are children assessed?

One of the most important parts of the intervention process in the ESDM is the creation of short-term (12 week) learning objectives for the child. These objectives are established through an assessment of the child’s current skill level using the ESDM Curriculum Checklist. Two to three targets in each relevant developmental domain (ie receptive communication, expressive communication, social skills, play skills, cognitive skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and adaptive behaviour skills) are then formulated and taught over the 12 weeks.

Download a Research Update on the ESDM. 


The ESDM is currently available to families through all Autism Queensland centres. Please contact your closest centre to discuss how the ESDM can assist your child or click here to register your interest:

Sunnybank Hills  
P. 07 3273 2059 
E. customerservice@autismqld.com.au

Brighton
P. 07 3631 6300
E. customerservice@autismqld.com.au

Gladstone
P. 07 4977 9600 
E. gladstone@autismqld.com.au

Rockhampton
P. 07 4923 4800
E. rockhampton@autismqld.com.au

Mackay
P. 07 4841 8300
E. mackay@autismqld.com.au

Cairns
P. 07 4034 6600
E. cairns@autismqld.com.au