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What is ESDM

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is an evidence-based early intervention program specifically designed for young children diagnosed with or at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is among the most commonly recommended interventions by paediatricians and is supported by quality research showcasing its highly positive outcomes. ESDM integrates developmental and behavioural strategies in a comprehensive approach to target developmental outcomes in curcial areas social, communication, and cognitive skills during the early years of a child's development.

Key Components of ESDM

The key components of ESDM include:

  1. Developmental Curriculum: ESDM utilises a play-based curriculum that helps a child's development across a wide range of skills and developmental domains, fostering learning through structured, engaging activities and play routines designed to target goals individualised for each child. The developmental domains covered by ESDM are comprehensive and include social skills, expressive and receptive communication, cognition, play skills, imitation, joint attention, gross and fine motor skills, behaviour and personal independence.

  2. Naturalistic Teaching Strategies: ESDM emphasises teaching within the child's natural environment. ESDM therapists use play routines, everyday activities and interactions to facilitate learning opportunities. This approach encourages learning in real-life contexts, making skills more functional and applicable. During ESDM therapy, therapists aim to embed multiple teaching opportunities in each activity to target individualised goals of a child's early intervention program.

  3. Individualisation: The program is individualised, recognizing that each child with ASD is unique. ESDM interventions are tailored to the child's strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and developmental level, ensuring that the strategies employed are most beneficial for each child.

  4. Intensive and Pervasive Approach: ESDM is typically an intensive intervention, involving multiple sessions per week and a high level of involvement from therapists and caregivers. The goal is to immerse the child in a supportive and stimulating environment to maximise learning opportunities.

  5. Continuous Assessment and Adaptation: ESDM involves ongoing assessment of the child's progress. Therapists regularly monitor and adjust interventions based on the child's responses and developmental changes, ensuring that the program remains effective and tailored to the child's evolving needs.

These components work synergistically to create a holistic and individualized approach to early intervention for children with ASD. By addressing various developmental domains and integrating strategies within natural environments, ESDM aims to promote optimal development in children during their critical early years.

Access our ESDM Program

At Best Future, we believe in early and ready access to early intervention program. To enhance access by the to our services, we have clinic locations across Melbourne at Essendon, Kew, Point Cook and Dandenong. Our robust and proactive internal and external training for our team ensures access with minimal waiting time. To enquire about availability, for more information or to book a free initial info-consultation for you to come in to our centre with your child, please complete the online registration form.  ​

Implementation of our ESDM Program

For more information about the ESDM Programs we offer, please see ESDM Program.


Resources and Publications (updated) 

Geoffray, M. M., Denis, A., Mengarelli, F., Peter, C., Gallifet, N., Beaujeard, V., ... & Touzet, S. (2019). Using ESDM 12 hours per week in children with autism spectrum disorder: Feasibility and results of an observational study. Psychiatria Danubina, 31(3), 333-339. Link:

Yang, Y., Wang, H., Xu, H., Yao, M., & Yu, D. (2023). Randomized, controlled trial of a mixed early start Denver model for toddlers and preschoolers with autism. Autism Research, 16(8), 1640-1649. Link:

Tateno, Y., Kumagai, K., Monden, R., Nanba, K., Yano, A., Shiraishi, E., ... & Tateno, M. (2021). The efficacy of early start denver model intervention in young children with autism spectrum disorder within japan: A preliminary study. Journal of the Korean Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 32(1), 35. doi: 10.5765/jkacap.200040 Link:

TIME Magazine: Behavior Therapy Normalizes Brains of Autistic Children 


SAGE Journals: The Early Start Denver Model: A Case Study of an Innovative Practice


Science Daily: Autism early intervention found to normalize brain activity in children as young as 18 months


Paediatrics: Randomized, Controlled Trial of an Intervention for Toddlers With Autism: The Early Start Denver Model


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