Prof Valsamma Eapen

Professor Eapen is currently Chair of the Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia and Head of the Academic Unit of Child Psychiatry, South West Sydney (AUCS). As a Child Psychiatrist with special expertise in neurodevelopmental disorders, her research interests include Tourette Syndrome, Autism, and ADHD as well as neurobiological underpinnings of attachment and separation anxiety. She has a particular interest in universal surveillance programs for early identification and intervention of developmental disorders and health equity. She has published extensively with around 200 publications including 5 books.

Valsamma will present with Elizabeth Fulton on Day 2 in Symposium 5 - Transforming Beginnings.

Mind the Gap: A Framework for Disseminating an Early Intervention Program (ESDM) for Pre-School children with Autism.

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a major public health concern given its early onset, lifelong persistence, and significant impairment. The value of early intervention is widely recognized with studies showing better outcomes with earlier treatment. However, the availability and accessibility of empirically evaluated treatment programs are limited. One such model available for children aged less than 30 months is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). It is an intensive, manualised, comprehensive intervention for children aged 12-60 months that integrates Applied Behaviour Analysis into a developmental and relationship-based approach. With a reported prevalence of more than 1% and the evidence base suggesting early identification and intervention for better outcomes, costly and resource intensive clinic based interventions are unsustainable. Given the brain plasticity in the first years of life, early intervention offers the best potential and consequently evidence based intervention should not be restricted to exclusive settings, but available to all children with ASD across Australia, regardless of their location and socioeconomic background, via flexible service delivery modes. Community dissemination of the ESDM, using a multi-faceted approach might offer a sustainable solution with significant clinical and economic benefits in resource constrained environments.

Program description: The KU Marcia Burgess ASELCC, in partnership with UNSW and Liverpool Health Service was established in 2009 under the Helping Children with Autism package and has been delivering ESDM successfully for over four years. Grounded on the evidence generated through our research demonstrating its effectiveness in the Group setting and in clinic settings, a far reaching sustainable dissemination model has been developed. This model covering urban and remote, as well as autism-specific and mainstream settings along with the framework for dissemination will be discussed.

Conclusion: This model offers the potential to transform beginnings for many more children with ASD nationally and internationally.

Also presenting in this Symposium:
Prof Katrina Williams
Prof Deb Keen