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First Steps TrainingEarly Start Denver Model

Module 3: Overview of the Early Start Denver Model


Upon completing this module, you will be able to describe:

  • The foundations of ESDMWoman reading a book to young child on her lap
  • The ESDM Curriculum Checklist
  • The correlation between IFSP Outcome and Skills on the ESDM Checklist

Activities to support your learning:



Foundations of ESDM: Intervention Practices

foundation of ESDM: Intervention Practices

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 What is the ESDM Curriculum Checklist? (Refer to Appendix A)

  • Criterion-referenced tool that provides developmental ESDM Curr Cklistcropsequences of skills in 8 domains.
  • Includes 480 items organized in 4 levels (ages 9 months to 48 months)
  • Developed for children with ASD
  • Placement of items across levels reflects typical child developmental research and clinical experience.

Curriculum Content

  • Assessment administered – play-based by the ESM-C
  • Completed every 12 weeks
  • Identify current level of ability and next set of more advanced skills
  • Teaches to both strengths and needs
  • Parent participation required
  • Domains
    • Receptive Language                        
    • Expressive Language
    • Social Interaction
    • Fine/Gross Motor Skills
    • Imitation
    • Cognition
    • Play Skills
    • Adaptive Behavior/Personal Independence

Checklist Details

  • Administered by Early Start Maine- Consultant (ESM-C)
    • Play-based, interactive format giving information regarding social and communication skills that would typically occur during a child’s play (play activity to natural ending point – note on skills, repeat)
    • Information received from parent(s) and therapists (if involved) via interview
  • Identify skills in each domain that define the child’s most mature skills (P, +), currently emerging (P/F, +-), and skills a child is not yet presenting with (F, -)
  • Most children’s skills fall within one level but review of the level before/after is made if a child has mostly fails/mostly passes in a given domain


  • Final Code (A, P, N, X)
    • A: Acquired skills ( not targeted as an objective),
    • P: Partial or prompted,
    • N: Child is unable or unwilling to demonstrate skill,
    • X: No opportunity or not appropriate for this child

Constructing the ESDM Intervention Plan (Refer to pgs. 68-79)

  • Completed by ESM-C in collaboration with PSP and IFSP Outcomes
  • Writing objectives
    • Intended to be achievable within 12 weeks, 2-4 objectivesNotepad and pencil per developmental area
    • Define skill mastery and generalization across people, settings, materials
    • Target functional, adaptive actions in context
  • Developing task analysis
    • 4-6 teaching steps: baseline -> mastery
  • Building daily data sheet to take data on each teaching step
  • Teaching each step to mastery
  • Monitoring progress with data summary sheet


  • Objectives are composed from the skills coded P-partial, N-not demonstrating, and X-no opportunity
  • Two to four objectives are developed in each domain
    • Input from parents regarding goals for their child
    • Input from other professionals considered
  • Objectives represent both a child’s strengths and challenges which result in objectives that are balanced and obtainable in 12 weeks (keeping in mind a child’s learning rate)

Example Objective: Expressive Communication

Mother and child clapping

A. When an adult presents (e.g. holds out items in hands or starts an activity and pauses) desired activities or objects out of reach during treatment sessions.

B. The child will request by vocalizing combined with gaze or gesture within 2 seconds of presentation.

C. 10 or more times in a 60 minute session across 3 different activities, people, and settings for three consecutive days.


Correlation between IFSP Outcomes and Skills on ESDM Checklist

An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a plan for special services for young children with developmental delays. An IFSP only applies to children from birth to three years of age. The IFSP is developed with service coordinator for a Part C eligible child and family. The service is available “Part C” (formerly Part H) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IFSP is set up to identify individualized supports and services that will enhance the child’s development. The IFSP is usually done at 6 month intervals but can be done more often if necessary. The PSP  facilitates coaching interactions that will address IFSP outcomes. This document is the responsibility of the Child Development Services (CDS) Early Intervention Team.

ESDM Intervention Plan/Program

The ESDM short-term (12-week) intervention plan begins with the assessment of the child’s’ current skill level using the Curriculum Checklist. Two to three target skill from each of the domains will be developed and be defined in measurable learning objectives that will include the antecedent, behavioral response, and generalization criteria. The ESM-will develop the program with supporting documentation and support the PSP in the implementation of the intervention plan.

 1. Download and review this  Handout.
 2. Activity: Match the IFSP outcome to the ESDM Checklist skill.

Module 3 Reflection: What have I learned?

Describe your understanding and knowledge of each of the following:

  • What principles of teaching does ESDM include?
  • What is included in the Curriculum Checklist as outlined in slides and reading appendix A?
    • Domains?
    • How many levels?
    • Who administers?
  • What is the correlation between IFSP outcomes and skills on the ESDM Checklist?
  • I would like more information about…..

When you complete this module please send your reflection to your instructor

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