Pre-school therapy programme for children with autism

The team at Victoria University of Wellington’s Educational Psychology Clinic have received funding from the IHC Foundation and Autism Intervention Trust to offer and evaluate a play-based therapy to help the development of pre-school children with autism.

Adult holds wooden shapes puzzle for child to see and play with.

Called the Early Start Denver Model, the therapy was developed in the United States. Members of the Educational Psychology Clinic team, Larah van der Meer and Hannah Waddington are the first in New Zealand to be trained in the model.

The project will involve both offering the therapy to children and their families as well as conducting research into its impact. This will include the appointment of a Community Advisor who will work with families, autism service providers and associated organisations, such as early childhood providers. A PhD researcher will also evaluate its use in early childhood centres.

The long term aims are to (a) continue providing high quality early intervention services for children with autism, (b) training postgraduate students to apply evidence-based practices to this population, and (c) conducting research to inform the field and improve outcomes for children with autism and their families.

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