Supporting ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) families with early invention programs. Where Illawarra parents can turn when they’ve received an ASD diagnosis.

 Jenny Henderson Mon 26 August 19


It is estimated that one child is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) every four hours but the support and understanding so desperately needed after diagnosis, is not always easy to find.

For ASD parents and carers, it can feel like the race against time as the evidence points to how high quality, early intervention can transform a child living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or neuro-developmental delay.

So here at Parents Guide Illawarra, we are delighted that the Child Development Institute (CDI) has opened it’s doors in Wollongong, offering evidence based, unique support for ASD families via:

 - Early Intervention Services CLICK HERE

 - Parents Services and Support CLICK HERE

 - Training and Support for professionals CLICK HERE

 - Workshops and events for all the ASD community CLICK HERE

At Parents Guide we were lucky enough to interview Nadene Anderson, CEO of CDI and a passionate advocate for the needs of ASD families to be met...

Q. 1 Can you start with the role you play at CDI and why your work is so important to you?
I grew up with a sibling who had special needs. My brother was not diagnosed with ASD until he was 37 years old, so while he was growing up we didn’t know how to help him. With no diagnosis there were no solutions and no clear ways that we could support him.

Now, there is so much research and understanding behind the neuroscience of Autism that we now know how to help children like my brother, through evidence based early intervention.

My family has founded the Child Development Institutein the hope that we can provide access to high quality early intervention that will change their lives, and the lives of their families. We also want to provide training for parents and professionals in these children’s support networks so that they can all work towards children with ASD being included in their education settings and in their communities.

Q. 2 Why early intervention and why the Early Start Denver model?

The earlier a child with a neurodevelopmental delay can access early intervention, the better the outcome. Science has proven that up until about 6 years old, the child’s brain has plasticity and is ripe for learning.

The Early Start Denver Model is an early intervention model developed specifically for children with ASD aged 12 months to 5 yrs. Many research studies have proven that the ESDM is effective in many settings including in clinics, specialised group programs, education settings, in the home and in the community. It is a multi-disciplinary model which means it takes elements from various practices including speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychology as well as from other model such as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and Pivotal Response Training (PRT).

When a child first enters our ESDM program they are assessed using the ESDM developmental curriculum checklist. This allows our therapists to pin-point exactly where the gaps are in the child’s development and where they need to start teaching. Each child has their own set of individualised objectives which cover all developmental domains. In each session these objectives are targeted through the use of the ESDM teaching principles and are formally reviewed every 10 weeks. Progress is tracked after every session through data collection.

A wonderful aspect of the ESDM is that it can be taught to parents to use in their home, to teachers to use in education settings and any other professional who is involved in supporting a child with ASD. By providing these kinds of supports we can promote more rapid development, greater wellbeing and higher levels of community participation for all.  

Q. 3 What are parents best do when they have received a diagnosis?
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, or even when it is suspected, parents can contact Lifestart, the local NDIS Early Childhood partner, to access funding to support early intervention therapy for their child. At the CDI we welcome families to come in to our centre for a tour and a chat with one of our ESDM therapists about how our programs could help their child and support their family as they navigate the journey of finding appropriate evidence based early intervention.

Q.4 Can you give examples of how the Early Start Denver model has helped kids in your programs?
We know that the ESDM creates positive outcomes for children with ASD from the growing body of research that is expanding across the world. The findings support it’s efficacy in both individual clinics and in group programs. This research has proven that the ESDM can reduce the severity of autism symptoms and associated maladaptive behaviour while accelerating children’s development across all developmental domains.

ESDM assists children who experience significant challenges with communication, behaviour, social interaction, imitation, cognition and personal independence skills.

Children who have been attending therapy at the CDI since we opened in May 2019 have been making wonderful progress which is tracked by their therapists who collect data each week. Parents have reported improvements in areas such as verbal communication, following instructions and playing in more functional ways such as rolling playdough rather than eating it.

Q. 5 Can you let parents know how to access support / programs and workshops?
Parents can call our centre or complete the waitlist form on our website (FIND IT HERE) and they will then receive information about our services, accessing NDIS and will also be invited to set up a time to visit us for a tour of our centre. 

If parents would like to enrol their child in our programs the first step is an ESDM Assessment which is a comprehensive developmental assessment specifically designed for young children with ASD. It reveals what a child is capable of and exactly where we should begin our teaching.

Based on this assessment and in collaboration with parents, the therapist will develop a treatment plan, for each child which is reviewed each quarter.

Parents can also book into any of our parent workshops which are listed on our website - CLICK HERE.

NDIS funding can be used to access all services provided at the CDI.

Q. 6 Any final last words of support and encouragement for ASD families?
While receiving a diagnosis of ASD is never going to be easy to accept, families should be reassured that there is both evidence proving that intensive early intervention can reduce the symptoms of ASD and promote development, and that NDIS funding can provide access to this therapy and supports.

From the team at Parents Guide Illawarra, we thank Nadene Anderson and CDI for sponsoring this article and we encourage any readers to share this article if you have found it useful!

We may still have a long way to go to better meet the needs of all our ASD community, but welcoming the Child Development Institute to the Illawarra, feels like a large step in the right direction.

To get in contact with the Child Development Institute, visit their website HERE, follow their Facebook page HERE and call the friendly team on (02) 4243 7899. 


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