Relationship Based + Evidence Based Practice

Evidence-based practice is an important part of our clinical practice here as pediatric therapists. Use of evidence-based practice is one of the primary goals of Play Works Children’s Therapies. 
— Sarah McDonnell, MA CCC-SLP

Play Works Children's Therapies is a multidisciplinary pediatric therapy clinic (speech-language pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy) devoted to providing family centered evidence based therapy in the context of motivating, natural play experiences. We work with many young children diagnosed with (suspected) autism spectrum disorder. We have specialty training in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a combination of relationship based and behavioral approaches for treating children with ASD. 

What Is the Early Start Denver Model? (via autism speaks)

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a comprehensive behavioral early intervention approach for children with autism, ages 12 to 48 months. The program encompasses a developmental curriculum that defines the skills to be taught at any given time and a set of teaching procedures used to deliver this content. It is not tied to a specific delivery setting, but can be delivered by therapy teams and/or parents in group programs or individual therapy sessions in either a clinic setting or the child’s home.

Psychologists Sally Rogers, Ph.D., and Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., developed the Early Start Denver Model as an early-age extension of the Denver Model, which Rogers and colleagues developed and refined. This early intervention program integrates a relationship-focused developmental model with the well-validated teaching practices of Applied Behavior Analysis(ABA). Its core features include the following:

  • Naturalistic applied behavioral analytic strategies
  • Sensitive to normal developmental sequence
  • Deep parental involvement
  • Focus on interpersonal exchange and positive affect
  • Shared engagement with joint activities
  • Language and communication taught inside a positive, affect-based relationship

Who can benefit from the Early Start Denver Model? What Has Research Shown?

The Early Start Denver Model is the only comprehensive early intervention model that has been validated in a randomized clinical trial for use with children with autism as young as 18 months of age. It has been found to be effective for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) across a wide range of learning styles and abilities. Children with more significant learning challenges were found to benefit from the program as much as children without such learning challenges. 

Sarah McDonnell