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General overview

The Denver method or ESDM (Early Start Denver Model) was created in the United States by psychologists Dr. Sally Rogers and Dr. Géraldine Dawson in the 1980s and allows children with autism aged 1 to 5 years to benefit from care from an early age, at a time when brain plasticity, i.e. the ability to adapt and reeducate the brain, is very important 


This method is based on the principles of applied behaviour analysis (see ABA method), but it is mainly positioned in a developmental framework, i.e. it places interaction and relationships with the child at the centre of the intervention.


ESDM has been the subject of extensive research with tangible results.

The ESDM method is part of the recommendations of the High Authority of Health (HAS) for the support of autistic children, as are the ABA and TEACCH methods.

Main objectives of the method

The ESDM mainly targets three critical developments in children: relationships, imitation and verbal (vocal) communication. 

Other objectives include attention, sharing, the desire to join others and play.


The main objective of ESDM is to bring the child back into the social circuit and to make interaction and learning the reinforcers in themselves.

Specificities of the method
  • All interventions are done in the game. The aim is to strengthen the child through contact itself, whether through contact with the caregiver or the parent, and not only through acquired behaviours such as the ABA method.

  • It can be applied in several environments (home, clinic, preschool, community...) and operates in an interdisciplinary manner, all specialists work together around a coordinator.

  • The intensity, 15 to 20 hours minimum are recommended per week, so a little less than the ABA method

  • Parents choose the goals that are important to them and actively participate in the program.

  • Denver is still very little used in France, especially due to a lack of trained professionals

More recently, Rogers has implemented these programs in inclusive schools, kindergartens with typical and atypical children, where specific supports are integrated into the classroom. 

Who is this method for ?

For children with autism from 1 to 5 years old. It is about facilitating their development, not changing their behaviour.

What parents say about it

Here you can find a number of parents' opinions:

Any remarks or comments ?

This work is based on a collaborative approach to sharing research and family experience.

If you have any comments, suggestions for modifications or corrections or clarifications to make, please let us know by email at

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