Having worked in SEN teaching and management as an Autism Specialist for a number of years, I was always drawn to the field of naturalistic, play based early intervention for young children with ASD. Following the publication of the first Early Start Denver Model RCT in 2010, I was lucky enough to visit the UC Davis MIND Institute and spend time with Professor Sally Rogers and her team as part of the first cohort of ESDM certification for professionals. My time there was truly inspiring and had a huge impact on the way that I have developed my own practice ever since. Sally has continued to be a source of support, encouragement and inspiration over the years and it was a great honour to have her on the most recent episode of the Play2Pod podcast.
Sadly, since my visit to UC Davis, there has not been any changes to the levels of support and intervention that children receive in the UK. In many ways things have got worse. One of the most striking discussion points was actually part of the conversation before the interview started. I was talking about how in many cases we don’t have children starting with our services until they are almost 4, having had no intervention at all to that point. As Sally remarks during the podcast, this simply is not something that they see in the US anymore. She hasn’t had that experience for over a decade. This just shows what a long way we have to go to get things right for children and their families who need help at the very start.
However, as countless research studies have shown, parent power works! The benefits of an NDBI model like ESDM or Play2Talk is that it is not necessary to have intensive services from therapists and costly intervention programmes. Children can make just as much positive progress through a parent coaching model than they would with hours of therapy time.
Whilst our government catches up with the rest of the world, we can keep using play as the most powerful tool. The science, and the experts, would agree!