Early Start Autism Clinic

Early Start and the University of Wollongong take a holistic approach to supporting children, their families and carers. We provide evidence-based early intervention and mental health support services, as well as workshops and professional training in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) for those caring for and working with Autistic children.

The UOW Early Start Autism Clinic is the only authorised Early Start Denver Model training site in Australia, and the only approved training site outside of the United States. It offers the most comprehensive range of ESDM programs in Australia, including:  

  • support services, direct therapy and workshops for parents and carers of children with autism
  • professional development (training) for educators and therapists,
  • advanced training for professionals working with children with autism who are degree qualified in education, allied health, psychology and medicine 
  • certification in the ESDM
  • professional development support for organisations establishing an ESDM service.

Expert insight

Elizabeth Aylward is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) Program Manager at Early Start, University of Wollongong. She is one of only 4 Certified ESDM trainers in Australia, and has been training and mentoring professionals in the ESDM since 2010. Here, Elizabeth explains why this highly acclaimed intervention is good for children with autism.

The essence behind the model is to bring a child with autism, back into the social loop at every opportunity, because a child with autism starts to drift out that social loop at around six months of age. So what does 'a social loop' mean? A social loop is where the child is socially engaged with others, like their typically developing peer is, and it's in that context that the typically developing child does most of their learning.

By paying attention to other people, to their faces, their voices their actions, their gestures and, observing and imitating those, either mentally or acting them out, and that's where the bulk of their learning occurs. But for the child with ASD, at around six months of age they start to babble less, they start to pay less and less attention to the people around them and they're actually gradually falling out of that social loop, so they're missing out on all those valuable learning opportunities in every moment of their day that their typically developing peers are getting, and that has a cascading effect on their overall development.

So that, at the heart of the ESDM, is empirical evidence behind the social learning, learning communication skills, learning imitation skills, learning play skills, cognition, self-help skills, joint attention, crossing all of the developmental domains. But essentially, we are, in whatever we're doing, whether it's reading a book or doing a puzzle or playing outdoors, the focus is to get that lovely alternating attention between the activity and the child's attention to our face and our voices and our actions.

Early Start Denver model (ESDM)
Esdm For Professionals
Esdm For Parents And Carers
Engagement team member Elizabeth Aylward Our team
Facts, FAQS and resources
An educator from Kids Uni engaging with a child Early Intervention: Esdm At Kids’uni

Georgianna Moraitopoulou, Therapist, international attendee of ESDM Advanced Workshop

“I was able to become fully certified and gain an identity for my profession and connect with more people in the field; people from my workshop and around the globe. I wanted to be as good as I could in what I'm doing, and it was one of the best experiences.   

Therapist, international attendee of ESDM Advanced Workshop, ESDM Certified Therapist