The Framework

PlayAble is based on the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

Early Start Denver Model


Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a comprehensive evidence-based intervention approach developed by behavioural psychologists, Sally Rogers and Geraldine Dawson. Rogers and Dawson have spent over 30 years researching and working with children under the age of five who have autism.

The principle and aim of ESDM: Children learn best when they interact and communicate with other people. Children with ASD have fewer opportunities to learn because of their social communication difficulties. ESDM seeks to address these difficulties by fostering the ability of children with ASD to engage and interact with others and to increase their learning opportunities.

The model incorporates learnings from different disciplines including developmental science, applied behaviour analysis and social affective neuroscience to facilitate learning and development in young children with autism. It outlines both what and how to teach children with ASD within a play-based curriculum during natural play and everyday activities.

How ESDM assists children with Autism:

  • Between birth and the age of six, a child’s brain is forming synapses; this time period has the biggest impact on their social and language development. The earlier intervention begins for children with autism the better the outcomes.
  • Addresses deficits in social attention and teaches strategies on redirecting a child’s focus back to people.  Parents and carers learn how to be in the child’s ‘spotlight of attention’. Once the parent/carer has the child’s attention, learning about the social world including play, gesture and language can occur.
  • Uses strategies designed to make social interactions more rewarding and fun – ‘Finding the Smile’. When a child pays attention and is emotionally engaged during learning, they are more likely to retain that information.
  • Uses multi-model and multi-domain teaching to facilitate neural connectivity between different parts of the brain.