What is the Early Start Denver Model?
The Early Start Denver Model is a type of behavioural therapy based on Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) that is developed mainly for young children with autism. It is classified as a Naturalistic Developmental Behavioural Intervention (NDBI) which blends the use of applied behaviour analysis and research in early human development to treat the core deficits of autism such as poor joint attention, social communication and interaction. NDBIs are considered by many researchers to be the next step in the evolution of early intervention for children with autism. For those who are keen to know more about NDBIs, here is a link to a good research article on the topic.
The Early Start Denver Model focuses on building relationships, using everyday activities and routines, as well as the child’s interest to strengthen the child’s deficits in the areas of social communication and interaction. The Early Start Denver Model was considered such an important development that Time magazine ranked it 5th in its top 10 list of medical breakthroughs of 2012.
Similarities and differences between ABA and the Early Start Denver Model
Both ABA and the Early Start Denver Model adopt the ABC (Antecedent – Behaviour- Consequence) model of learning. An antecedent is first provided and a consequence follows after a behaviour is demonstrated. For example, an adult shows a toy to a child (antecedent). The adult gives the toy to the child only (consequence) when the child looks at the adult and says “Give me the toy” (behaviour).
ABA tends to have more research on older children (3 years onwards) while the Early Start Denver Model has more research on younger children (as young as 6 months).
One difference between ABA and the Early Start Denver Model is that ABA tends to be more adult-led while the Early Start Denver Model is more child-led. In ABA, the adult or therapist will decide on the toys or activities that are used for teaching while in the Early Start Denver Model, the adult will let the child choose their preferred toys or activities and use that for teaching.
Another difference between ABA and the Early Start Denver Model is the focus on building relationships and developing a keen interest in the child as a person in the Early Start Denver Model. In the Early Start Denver Model, time is taken to focus on what the child is interested in and maintaining a warm, positive affect in all interactions with the child. The adult or therapist works hard to keep the child engaged through positive and fun interactions, and using these moments to teach the important skills of social interaction and communication. This is in contrast to ABA where the adult or therapist is expected to present a neutral demeanour and to provide a positive affect only when the target behaviour is demonstrated by the child.
A third difference is the mode of delivery of intervention. Both ABA and the Early Start Denver Model are specialised intervention programmes that require the person delivering the intervention to be adequately trained. The majority of ABA programmes are delivered by trained professionals only while the Early Start Denver Model can be provided by trained professionals and by parents who have undergone training in the Early Start Denver Model. The developers of the Early Start Denver Model actively encourage the implementation of the Early Start Denver Model strategies by parents and have developed a separate training programme for parents that has been positively validated by research.
Despite the differences between ABA and the Early Start Denver Model, both are effective intervention programmes for children with autism. Every child is different, and parents should seek the most effective intervention programme that suits their child, their family and their personal philosophy.
Early Start Denver Model in Singapore
Spectrum Psychology Practice is the only private organisation that provides the Early Start Denver Model intervention for children with autism in Singapore. Our professionals are some of the first few therapists to be trained as Certified ESDM Therapists in Singapore. The use of the Early Start Denver Model and other NDBIs are slowly gaining recognition and usage in both the public hospitals and EIPIC centres in Singapore.
At Spectrum Psychology Practice, we not only provide direct intervention but also teach parents the various strategies on improving social communication and interaction based on the Early Start Denver Model curriculum. Our Early Start Denver Model therapists have either completed training and are Certified ESDM Therapists or are currently undergoing the certification process, thus giving parents a peace of mind that they are receiving service that is of a high quality and approved by the Early Start Denver Model certification board. To check the certification status of our therapists, please click on this link.
To find out more about Spectrum Psychology Practice and our services, please visit our website at www.spectrumpsychology.sg or contact us here.