Autism researchers travel to India (Issue 2, 2013)


The Margot Prior Wing of the La Trobe University Community Children’s Centre is working with a not-for-profit organisation based in India to provide Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) training to medical professionals from a New Delhi hospital to help children with autism. 

Over four days, trainers from the Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre at La Trobe University, Research Fellow Dr Giacomo Vivanti and Occupational Therapist Jess Feary (pictured), trained 15 doctors, nurses and allied health professionals from the New Delhi hospital – Maulana Azad Medical College.

‘The doctors, nurses and allied health professionals will learn effective therapeutic strategies on an autism specific intervention program, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), enabling them to implement an evidence-based early intervention program, which is currently used at the Margot Prior Wing of the La Trobe University Children’s Centre to help children with autism participate in community life,’ says Dr Vivanti.

Unlike other programs that focus on older children, the ESDM uses an early intervention approach and encompasses curriculum and teaching practises designed for toddlers and young preschoolers with autism.

‘It’s been known for some time that ESDM leads to significant positive changes in the development of children with autism,’ says Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, Director of the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) at La Trobe University and the Margot Prior Wing’s Research Partner.

‘This trip is very important to our mission to disseminate knowledge on best practice in autism intervention, and build research partnerships overseas,’ says Dr Vivanti.

‘This partnership with our colleagues in India is particularly important because they will learn how to implement the same intervention program that we are using but in a completely different setting.

‘It will give us the opportunity to determine whether our model is effective and sustainable across different cultural and geographical contexts.’

The latest research shows that children receiving ESDM showed the same pattern of response to faces and objects as typical developing children.

‘They are still autistic, but the ESDM seems to be changing the way their brain responds to other people,’ says Professor Dissanayake.

The Hans Foundation first approached La Trobe University, Margot Prior Wing, to provide the ESDM training to the New Delhi hospital and it is expected that the partnership continues to grow and improve outcomes for children with autism.

The ESDM training session commenced on the 11 of March and concluded on the 14 of March.