ESDM in the community

By June 10, 2024 June 13th, 2024 ESDM
Occupational Therapy gym in Mascot and Bondi Junction to use ESDM in the community

Using the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) in the Community

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a wonderful way to help young children with autism. It uses fun, play-based activities to teach important skills. While ESDM often starts at home, it can also be very effective in the community. Let’s explore how you can use ESDM in different community settings to help children learn and grow.

Fun at the Playground

  1. Slide and Swing: The playground is a great place to practice ESDM. When your child is on the slide, you can encourage them to say “ready, set, go!” before they slide down. On the swing, you can sing songs together or count as you push.
  2. Turn-Taking: Playgrounds are perfect for teaching turn-taking. If another child wants to use the slide, help your child understand that it’s their turn next. You can say, “Now it’s their turn, then it will be your turn.”
  3. Following Directions: Give simple directions while playing. For example, “Climb up the ladder” or “Throw the ball to me.” This helps your child learn to listen and follow instructions.

Shopping Adventures

  1. Grocery Store: Turn a trip to the grocery store into a fun learning experience. Ask your child to help find items on the list. You can say, “Can you find the apples?” or “Let’s look for the milk together.”
  2. Counting and Colors: Use the items in the store to teach counting and colours. “How many bananas are in this bunch?” or “What color are the grapes?” These questions make shopping interactive and educational.
  3. Social Skills: Encourage your child to say hello to the cashier or thank you when someone helps. These small interactions build important social skills.

Library Visits

  1. Story Time: Libraries often have story time sessions. Attending these can be a great way for your child to practice listening and sitting still. They can also learn new words and concepts from the stories.
  2. Choosing Books: Let your child choose books. This gives them a sense of independence and can spark their interest in reading. Ask them questions about the books they pick, like “What do you think this book is about?”
  3. Interactive Play: Many libraries have play areas with toys and puzzles. Playing with these can help your child practice fine motor skills and problem-solving.

Exploring Nature

  1. Nature Walks: Take your child on nature walks. Talk about the things you see, like trees, flowers, and birds. You can say, “Look at the big tree!” or “Can you hear the birds singing?”
  2. Collecting Treasures: Let your child collect leaves, rocks, or sticks. This can be a fun way to practice counting and sorting. “How many leaves did you find?” or “Let’s sort the rocks by size.”
  3. Sensory Experiences: Nature provides many sensory experiences. Let your child feel the grass, smell the flowers, and listen to the wind. These experiences can be very soothing and help them learn about the world.

Community Events

  1. Festivals and Fairs: Local festivals and fairs are full of learning opportunities. Children can see new things, hear different sounds, and try new activities. You can talk about what you see and do together.
  2. Meeting People: Events are great for practicing social skills. Encourage your child to say hello to new people and ask simple questions. “What’s your name?” or “Do you like the fair?”
  3. Participating in Activities: Many events have activities for kids, like face painting or games. Participating in these can help your child learn to follow instructions and try new things.

Using ESDM Techniques in the Community

  1. Modelling and Imitation: Show your child how to do something, then encourage them to imitate you. For example, if you are at the park and see a swing, you can say, “Watch me swing!” and then help them try it.
  2. Positive Reinforcement: Praise your child when they try something new or follow a direction. Say things like, “Great job waiting for your turn!” or “You did a good job finding the apples.”
  3. Language Building: Always talk about what you are doing and seeing. Use simple language and encourage your child to use words, gestures, or sounds to communicate.
  4. Joint Attention: Engage in activities that require both of you to focus on the same thing. For example, looking at a book together or building a sandcastle.
  5. Fun and Play: Remember, ESDM is about learning through play. Make sure the activities are fun and enjoyable. The more fun your child has, the more they will learn.


Using the Early Start Denver Model in the community opens up a world of learning opportunities. From the playground to the grocery store, each setting offers unique ways to practice skills. By turning everyday activities into fun learning experiences, you help your child grow and develop. So, get out there and explore your community with your child. Every moment is a chance to learn and play together!

Meet Arthur

Arthur is 4 years old and he has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). His parents were frustrated when they took him to the local playground because Arthur only wanted to walk around the perimeter. He screamed when the tried to put him on the swing or the slippery dip. He was more interested in the leaves on the ground rather than the playground equipment. Firstly, the Occupational Therapist worked on Arthur’s gravitational insecurity. He was scared when he was lifted off the ground. Secondly, playground activities were included in his ESDM program. His Certified ESDM Therapists used our Occupational Therapy gym which has a lot of playground equipment. Lastly, the parents completed 6 parent training sessions so they knew how to prompt Arthur to use the equipment at their playground.

Arthur loves the playground now. He uses all the equipment and squeals with delight when he goes down the slide. He watches what the other children do because the leaves no longer interest him. The family now has picnics at their local playground and the extended family often joins them because this is where Arthur engages the most with his grandparents. He loves it when Grandpa pushed him on the swing!

Start Your Child’s Journey to Brighter Futures Today!

At OneOnOne Children’s Therapy, we specialise in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) to support your child’s development. Our dedicated team is here to help your child achieve their full potential through personalised, evidence-based interventions. Contact us now to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward a brighter future!

Call us on (02) 80657837 or email. We have clinics in Bondi Junction and Mascot in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. You can book a free 30 minute phone call with us to discuss how we can support your child’s unique journey.