New play-based therapy explored for Kiwi kids

Victoria University researchers are offering a new play-based autism therapy to help the development of pre-school children.

For the first time in New Zealand, the team will offer a therapy developed in the United States, called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). IHC Foundation has contributed $42,600 towards the cost.

Project leader Dr Larah van der Meer and PhD researcher Hannah Waddington say the international clinical trials of the ESDM model of family-based preschool therapy are showing very positive results for children – including improved intelligence scores, greater improvement in cognitive and language abilities and fewer autistic symptoms. In some cases it led to a change in diagnosis.

Researchers (from left) Hannah Waddington, Larah van der Meer and Jessica Tupou.

Researchers (from left) Hannah Waddington, Larah van der Meer and Jessica Tupou.

The Victoria University team will include four trained therapists to work with the children and their families to develop language and communication, social interaction, imitation, cognition and daily living skills. Initially the project will recruit eight to 10 children and their parents.

One of the team members will be PhD student Jessica Tupou, who will not only offer the ESDM therapy but conduct research into its impact. She will also be working with a number of early childhood education providers in the Hutt Valley and training teachers in the therapy.

The team is now looking for Wellington region families to participate in the early-intervention therapy and associated research. See the brochure.

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