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Developmental Domains

The ESDM Curriculum is rooted in research and sensitive to the average sequence children without autism or developmental delays acquire skills. The research suggests that young children with autism have the ability to realign their developmental track and gain skills in a similar fashion to their neurotypical counterparts. The skills in the ESDM curriculum are taught in a specific sequence that allows your child to establish a strong baseline of skills and build upon them, as is done in typical development. Think about our intervention focus as establishing a strong foundation or first layer to the growing tower that is your child's development.


Receptive Communication

This domain focuses on auditory comprehension, or what your child understands. An example would be, when you ask your child to "come here", "stand up" or "get the ___" does he or she follow through? 

Expressive Communication ​

This domain involves the ways in which your child sends a message. This includes gestures, such as pointing or reaching, and the words he or she uses to get your attention, recall events from their day, comment, and request or refuse. 

Social Skills​

This domain focuses on how your child interacts with others. Including responding to greetings, attending to a person with eye contact, sharing items with adults and peers, participating in a group setting, and inviting a peer to play.


This domain refers to  your child's ability to copy motor actions within song and game routines, and copy a variety of actions with objects (for example, banging a ball with a hammer). This also includes verbal imitation, which is when your child copies what you say. 


This category includes skills such as matching and sorting by a variety of properties, up to pre-academic skills such as letter and number recognition, quantities, sequencing events, reading, and stating opposites.


How your child engages with toys or other objects. Play should be flexible, independent, appropriate as it relates to the materials. Examples include stacking blocks, manipulating toys that require several motor actions (open, close, put in, take out) independently, carrying out actions with a doll or animal, placing figurines on miniature furniture, taking a song's character role and acting it out.

Fine Motor

This domain includes the way in which your child uses his or her hand to manipulate small objects, open and close containers, complete personal independence, skills such as zipping and buttoning clothing, as well as his or her ability to use age appropriate grasps during writing or cutting activities. 

Gross Motor

This domain encompasses a variety of skills to monitor and improve how your child coordinates his or her body while engaged in movement activities. This includes safely navigating his or her environment, jumping, balancing, kicking or throwing a ball, and age appropriate coordination skills.

Personal Independence

This category includes age appropriate skills in daily routines such as eating, dressing, grooming, hygiene, toileting and chores.


This domain focuses on managing the extent to which your child is able to participate in his or her daily routines without difficult, unsafe, or challenging actions. This includes your child's response to various situations and items in his or her environment and your child's ability to cope and respond appropriately. 

Joint-Attention Behavior

This domain encompasses the ability of your child to share focus on an object with an adult or another child. For example, your child will reference the other person and alert them to an object by means of eye-gazing, pointing or other verbal or non-verbal indications.


Autism primarily affects development in children’s social-emotional, cognitive, and language domains, however common co-morbidities include delayed motor skills, feeding and sleep difficulties, behavioral challenges, and anxiety and inattention. This is why it is important to consider a therapy approach that encompasses all the domains of developmental and is implemented by a wide range of professionals. 

Learn more about Occupational Therapy (OT), Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).


A quick Google search of "autism" can yield endless amounts of information related to causes, best treatments, therapies, and more. It can be overwhelming to say the least. We recommend you complete your due diligence and weigh all your options. But, to make it easier on you, we have curated credible, evidenced-based research on the Early Start Denver Model, early intervention in autism, teletherapy, parent coaching, and more.

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