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ESDM Most Effective in Young Children, Study Finds

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on May 25, 2016


Background: The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is an intervention designed for children 12 to 60 months of age with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A team of trained professionals including therapists, teachers, childcare workers and psychologists deliver this program; parents receive guidance from the therapy team as well. ESDM aims to help children gain social skills and engage in interpersonal relationships. It uses child-directed methods like simultaneous movement, rhythm, and reciprocal behavior.


What’s New: On March 28, 2016, the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published a study exploring the effects of ESDM in children of different ages. The researchers administered diagnostic questionnaires to assess verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as ASD severity, in 32 children between 18 and 48 months of age and in 28 children between 48 and 62 months of age. Prior to the questionnaires, the children participated in ESDM for a year. While all participants improved non-verbal communication, the younger group had significantly greater improvement on the verbal diagnostic questionnaire. None of the children reduced their ASD severity scores.


Why it’s important: This study supports the basic principal underlying ESDM – that early intervention is most effective, especially in achieving gains in verbal communications. Future studies could compare gains with a control group not receiving ESDM therapy to more thoroughly evaluate program effectiveness.

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