The Early Start Denver Model

Work with ESDM-certified therapists to support your child's progress and help them participate fully in life.

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An effective early intervention program that helps young children enjoy better outcomes

Fun and flexible early intervention support based on developmental science. That’s how certified ESDM therapists help your child adapt to daily routines and learn positive behaviours. ESDM supports young children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental delays. It’s a form of behavioural therapy that provides lasting results, so your child can enjoy a better quality of life.

ESDM therapy follows a play-based approach to improve language, social and cognitive skills. Fun activities are used to help your child meet their goals and teaching needs. IT can be delivered in a group setting or one-on-one, at home, in clinics, at school or where your child needs us most. ESDM therapists usually work with children up to 6 years of age, focusing on the age group of toddlers and pre-schoolers.


How ESDM therapy enhances your child’s progress

ESDM therapy helps young children make their own choices, find their voice, and explore their interests. Our ESDM therapists will create a personalised care plan that addresses your child’s unique needs.

ESDM can help:

  • Explore your child’s interests and encouraging interaction, communication and connection
  • Improve language, social and cognitive skills so your child can better adapt to daily routines and activities
  • Help your child relate to and connect with others in a group setting, and participate in joint activities to build social skills
  • Help you connect better as parents and families

How ESDM therapy works at Early Start Australia

Our ESDM program takes a holistic approach, with a rounded team. This includes parents, certified ESDM therapists and other therapy services with ESA. We may work with occupational therapists, psychologists and more, depending on what your child needs.

We begin with an ESDM curriculum checklist that looks at which skills will help your child’s progress. We’ll work with you to develop individual goals and a comprehensive treatment plan. As we work together towards these goals, we carefully track progress, adjusting when needed to ensure success.


The ESA difference

Certified ESDM therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and more working together.

We help your child achieve their goals in a holistic, supported and personalised way.

Our goal is to help parents connect more with their young children, and create effective care plans together.

With ESDM therapy, we support you and your child to meet developmental goals and enjoy better outcomes and quality of life.

Experience early intervention that works and a partner committed to making a positive difference in your child’s life.

Find a clinic near you

We have clinics in every state and territory providing assessments, early childhood intervention therapies, and support to help you thrive.

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Frequently asked questions about ESDM therapy

Absolutely. ESDM is built on solid research into evidence-based approaches and behavioural therapy. Its effectiveness was proven in a number of randomised trials and research papers. This research spans many countries and reviews many ways ESDM therapy has delivered unmatched results.

ESDM therapy was designed primarily for toddlers and preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder or children in this age group with developmental challenges.

Both ESDM and ABA are evidence-based therapies that can help children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, there are some differences between the two approaches.

The ESDM approach is child-led, allowing them to make choices. It uses natural learning opportunities and play to encourage your child’s progress in a fun and engaging way. ABA therapy is a structured approach that breaks skills into smaller steps and rewards specific behaviours.

While both therapies are effective, they cater to different needs. ESDM suits young children who need a more natural and flexible approach. ABA may suit older children or those who need a more structured and targeted approach.

Most children respond positively to the early intervention program. While gains can come quickly for some, it takes time and consistency for others. Over time, if we don’t see improvements, our ESDM-certified therapists will look at other approaches that suit your child’s progress. Every child is unique, and their needs are different. The important thing is to stay proactive with their support, adjust as needed, and continue to monitor and workshop our strategy.

This is a tool we use to assess your child’s progress with our ESDM program. It covers:

  1. Communication skills – using words to express needs, socially interact, and follow simple instructions.
  2. Social skills – making eye contact, sharing attention, taking turns, and engaging in joint attention.
  3. Play skills – exploring toys, participating in joint activities, and engaging in imaginative play.
  4. Self-help skills – dressing, eating and using the bathroom independently.

The checklist also includes specific tasks or behaviours to suit your child’s progress. We then use our assessment to guide the therapy goals and activities for your child.

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) therapy originated in the USA in 1981. It was originally known as the ‘play school model’ as it focused on merging learning into a child’s interests and playtime.

The Early Start Australia promise

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Multi-disciplinary approach

Our ESDM-certified therapists pair with other services like occupational therapy and psychology for holistic care.

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Australian wide network of centres

With over 50 clinics Australia-wide, and telehealth support, we’re here when you need us, wherever you need the help. Our team works in clinics, at school, in your home and more to provide all-around care.

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Registered NDIS provider

As a Registered NDIS provider, our ESDM therapy services meet the NDIS quality and safety standards and are eligible for NDIS funding.

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Personalised, family-centered approach

We’re a team, and we’re in this together. Our goal is to work with parents to provide care that is comprehensive and unique. We’ll give you the tools and training to support your child’s progress at home.