Home > Government Relations > Jump Start to Success in Seattle with ESDM

Jump Start to Success in Seattle with ESDM

Stacey Auger is a Seattle-area grandmother who serves as primary caregiver to her toddler grandson, Ayden, who was diagnosed with ASD at 15 months. Thanks to research funding provided through the Combating Autism Act of 2006, Stacey and Ayden took part in a University of Washington (UW) clinical trial to test the effectiveness of a promising new early intensive behavioral intervention program called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), for toddlers as young as 12 months of age.

Ayden was among 40 Seattle-area children who participated in the clinical trial to determine if ESDM intervention, when initiated below age two and provided at high intensity for two years, can significantly improve IQ, adaptive behavior, and autism symptoms. ESDM is provided in the toddler’s home by both trained therapists and parents or the child’s primary caregiver.

The research community will learn the results of the clinical trial in two years, when all the families participating at three sites nationally have completed the study. But for Ms. Auger, the verdict already is in. She shared her experiences with Autism Speaks.

It was nothing short of winning the lottery when we were randomized into the home-based intervention. Ayden was a regressive child, he was diagnosed with ASD at 15 months. We received three months of parent training at the UW Autism Center, which was incredibly helpful to us. Although I was the primary caregiver in the study, I’m just one part of a seven-member family.

The parent training was very eye opening for me because it was in opposition to the way I raised my own children, so I had to learn all over again how to effectively communicate. Old school wasn’t very effective with Ayden. Working with me and Ayden one on one, the UW team taught me how to engage him — seeking the smile first and level of interest prior to engagement.  We worked towards joint engagement and pointing, the sort of things we take for granted with a typically developing child.

It was two hours a week—we did that for three months, and then we started the home interventions, 20 hours per week. Within a very short time, by the second week, we were getting joint attention. We noticed an immediate difference in the way we communicated with him and continued to use the methods we had been taught. That was of primary importance. Some parents receive training but don’t use it — we knew right away that each and every communication was vital and to employ the methods that we were taught. It was important that everyone who communicated with him use the same protocol.

So did the intervention succeed?

I can sum it up in one brief statement — Ayden lost his qualification for an IEP in November (2010.) So he went from special education eligibility to being a typically developing peer in his pre-school. We still have a long way to go, this doesn’t mean he is typically developing in social skills. But there is no possible way that he could be where he is now without intensive early intervention. He just completed his first season of soccer, trophy and all.

We knew how fortunate we were to have the UW working with us. There are so many families without early intervention support. I strongly believe that every single child can make progress with intensive early intervention. We lived and breathed the ESDM model for 27 months during the study, and we continue to do so today; because it works.

This study was funded by the Combating Autism Act and is part of a series of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) underway at UW, UC Davis and the University of Michigan.  Dr. Sally Rogers (UC Davis) is the director of the multi-site study; Dr. Annette Estes is leading the efforts at the UW site. The foundation for this work was an RCT that was conducted at UW through a CAA-funded grant awarded to Geraldine Dawson, when she was professor of psychology at UW. Dr. Dawson now serves as chief science officer for Autism Speaks and is a research professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina.

Categories: Government Relations
  1. Haneefah Hasan
    June 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Good Evening All:

    I am a 59 year old woman working on her masters in Early Childhood Education. My thesis is on detecting early childhood Autism. I truely need you-all’s help! if someone can assist me I’d greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you,

    Mrs. H

  2. Katie Wright
    June 29, 2011 at 9:46 am

    That is such a thrilling story! What a wonderful ending. Your entire family should be congratulated. Recoveries like that are the the result of a caring and dedicated team of family members and professionals, and naturally all of Ayden’s hard, hard work.

    You mentioned autism regressed. Can you tell me a little about that? Did he have adverse reactions to vaccines? Is he a healthy child? How much language did he lose?

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story.

    • Richard Auger
      July 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm

      Katie,
      Ayden was a normally developing child until his MMR vaccine at 12 months. He was perfectly healthy, very active with a wonderful attitude, very evenly balance moods for a child, who quickly adjusted to changes and challenges. He had some issues with milk and we had switched to soy and rice milk, but other than that he seemed fine. Right after he had the MMR, he also got very sick, picked up a couple viruses and was in the ICU at Children’s Hospital for 5 days. When he came home he was not the same child. He would not look at us and talking was more babbling and screaming. We took him to a speech therapist and quickly realized that we were dealing with something much more than delayed speech. At 15 months he was diagnosed with Autism. After doing research and trial and error, we switched him to the GFCF diet, which brought about better participation, as he was more in the moment. We also research vaccines and learned about the damaged that DTP shot can cause to the digestive system. We started a regiment of supplements designed to healing the body and boosting the brain. Then we were accepted into the UofW Early Steps program and you know the rest of the story. We are believers in the ABA method and now we have also completed a six week run with Children’s Autism Center that focuses on leadership and that has been a perfect learning experience as Ayden lead instead of the choice learning that ABA uses. This is the right order though. Without ABA, he would not have been ready for this type of learning. One of Ayden great strengths continues to be his easy going, acceptance of change attitude that did not get impacted when he regressed. We have stopped all vaccines with him and his brother and we continue to believe that a combination a vaccines caused his regression.

      Richard Auger – Grandfather

  3. August 28, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Again and again I am reading more and more interesting posts. Well,this story shocked me, it’s very thrilling story. It is said that there is so much scary disease as autism, , but thanks god your story’s end is wonderful.

    Thank you for sharing

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