Our Program and Approach
KU Marcia Burgess Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre provides an evidence-based intervention (The Early Start Denver Model) for children with a diagnosis of autism. Our centre is funded by the Federal Government to deliver autism-specific education and care to 20 children a day, up to 5 years of age, in a long day care setting. Our centre is one of 6 ASELCCs across Australia and the only one in NSW.
The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is an evidence-based intervention specifically developed for children with autism aged between 12 – 60 months. It is a play-based intervention that fuses behavioural and developmental principles into an integrated approach. The Model is a Naturalistic Developmental Behavioural Intervention, and as such can be implemented across multiple settings, including the Specialist Child Care programs: ESDM Clinics and Preschool programs, if delivered by Certified ESDM therapists. It can also be delivered in the family home, by the child’s parents, simply within daily routines and play. Our KU MB ASELCC has implemented a variety of ESDM Programs across these multiple settings to address the needs of the many children and families on our wait list. We have opened up ESDM Clinics in Liverpool, Penrith and Hazelbrook and are currently adapting the ESDM to three of our Mainstream Preschools in Cobbitty, Airds and Macquarie Fields.
Our ESDM Clinics in Liverpool, Penrith and Hazelbrook
Each of the ESDM Clinics supported by the KU MB NSW ASELCC provide the ESDM intervention as an intensive 1:1 option for families who are unable to access the ASELCC Group Program. The ESDM aims to bring the child back into the social loop, reduce the symptoms of autism and fill in the learning gaps that have accumulated over time. It is a Manualised intervention with a comprehensive curriculum checklist to target all developmental areas, with a particular focus on communication, cognition and social interaction skills. All of the ESDM Therapists who deliver 1:1 intervention at these Clinics has completed the Certification level of training in the ESDM. They offer an ESDM Curriculum Assessment for each child, which is used to inform the child's comprehensive, quarterly program. This program is then implemented in an individualised therapy session, where the parents can observe the therapist working with their child and learn the strategies to help their own child back at home. Each of these Therapists can also provide coaching to parents in the ESDM model, if this is the parent’s preference. Parents can choose how many hours each week they would like to access these clinics and use their HCWA or NDIS funding to do so.
Every child at the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care centre spends an hour each day with typically developing peers from the co-located KU Mainstream Preschool and has the opportunity to spend part of their week in a mainstream preschool or long day care centre within their local community, where additional support is provided. This enables the children to engage in daily supported integration with typically developing peers and provides the opportunity for children to generalise their skills across settings. It also encourages relationships to form with children and families from centres in their local communities.
Our ESDM Training Program
Our NSW KU MB ASELCC has extensive experience in providing ESDM training. For the past five years, the service's certified ESDM trainer provides Advanced ESDM Workshops on a monthly basis, actively supporting parents and professionals to learn and use this evidenced based intervention. This training program attracts professionals from many states of Australia and countries across the world. Professionals participating in the training program can also be supervised to achieve a level of Certification as an ESDM Therapist, by our own Certified ESDM Trainer.
The ESDM Advanced Training also gives our own staff the tools to engage and teach young children with autism, within the daily program. Each family at our centre is assigned a Key Worker, who is a Certified ESDM Therapist and coordinates an individual and comprehensive program for each child, ensuring a consistent and predictable approach from all staff. Daily data is collected on each child’s progress towards the achievement of their individual goals and a comprehensive program review is completed quarterly.
Our Certified Therapists also provide a para-professional level of training to Child Care Educators and other adults who cannot go through the Certification process. This training is called: ‘One of the Kids’ and has been designed specifically to build the capacity of all mainstream service staff who are including children with Autism in their services.
Our Professional Partnerships
KU has partnered with Sydney South West Area Health Service (SSWAHS) and the University of NSW (UNSW) to provide a team of specialist trained staff, including Early Childhood Teachers, Child Care Educators, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Consultant Paediatrician, Speech Pathologists and a Family Coordinator. All staff have been trained in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) by our own Certified ESDM Trainer and under the supervision of the M.I.N.D. Institute at University of California Davis, Sacramento, to provide intensive intervention for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Our ASELCC is also a Research Centre to ensure that we are informing and advancing our practice. At any one time, there will be six to eight Research Projects running out of the ASELCC, under the supervision of the University of NSW. This ensures that we are consistently testing everything we do. All of this research is published in peer reviewed journals.
Our centre has been independently assessed by the Department of Education NSW under the National Quality Standards, and are proud to be rated as Exceeding the National Quality Standard.
However what matters most is what our families think...
"I love the fact that KU Marcia Burgess implements the ESDM program, as it is play based and I feel that the children respond much better to this natural approach. The educators and staff are great! We have found them at all times to be very understanding and supportive of the children and parents." - KU Marcia Burgess parent
"My son has adapted so well to the centre. He has been welcomed by the most loving and experienced staff. We are so grateful for the care they have taken to get to know every aspect of our son. He has improved so much in such a short time that he has been here. Integrating at playtime with the mainstream preschool next door has also been great, because it means he gets to interact with typically developing peers and has access to wonderful facilities." - KU Marcia Burgess parent
Optimal outcomes for children are created within relationships and interactions between children and staff, and children and their families, not within four walls. We work hard to create beautiful, interesting, homelike learning environments for children – whatever our setting. In our case, the environment is designed to set the stage for the ESDM to be delivered in the most effective way, but at the same time, resembles any naturalistic early childhood setting. It is the social environment that makes the difference.
In 2019, Rebecca Harrison from KU Marcia Burgess was awarded the 'Making the KU Difference for Staff' Award, recognising her involvement in guided practice as part of the ESDM Dissemination Research project, where she shared her practical knowledge and skills and was a constant source of support for children and educators.
In 2017, the team at KU Marcia Burgess were awarded the Certificate of Excellence for Advancing Practice at the Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA) NSW/ACT Excellence Awards. The award recognises the outstanding achievements the team have made to the early childhood intervention sector and their contribution to improving the lives of children with a developmental delay or disability, their families and communities.
The KU Marcia Burgess team were also awarded the 'Making the KU Difference for Children' Award in 2014, which recognised the team's dedication to making a difference in children's lives.
The Annual KU Difference Awards were introduced a number of years ago, as a way of acknowledging KU staff who have made a significant contribution to KU. These annual awards are open to all KU staff, at any level (either individual staff or a team), who have worked above and beyond their normal duties.
Our Reconciliation Action Plan
KU was proud to launch its inaugural Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in 2016. At KU Marcia Burgess, we began our journey to develop our centre’s RAP in 2018 and we are proud to launch it now. Please view it here.