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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.

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.

Download a Research Update on the ESDM.


The ESDM informs and is in incorporated into our early childhood programs. Please contact your local centre for further information.


AQ Gladstone

5/281 J Hickey Avenue, Gladstone QLD 4680


AQ Mackay

The John Villiers Centre of Excellence Mackay-Whitsunday
10 Macrossan Street, East Mackay QLD 4740

AQ Rockhampton

The John Villiers Centre of Excellence Central Queensland
373 Lakes Creek Road, Koongal QLD 4700


AQ Cairns

Far North Queensland Centre of Excellence
15 – 17 Marr Street, Edmonton QLD 4869

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