Welcome to the Child Development Institute

Research shows that high quality and intensive early intervention can make a significant difference in the life of your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Developmental Delay.

At the Child Development Institute we offer specialized Early Intervention programs based on the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), an evidence-based intervention for children on the Autism Spectrum and with Developmental Delays.

Our programs are designed to give your child the skills they need to lead an independent life and to fully participate within their family and community


I would like to express our thanks for your help with James’ treatment for the last nine months.  Straight from his very first appointment it was clear that CDI was the right fit for James. He quickly  warmed to all the staff and always loved his visits.

James’ progress since starting at CDI has been amazing. When he started, he rarely talked at pre-school and would not interact with other children. Now, he has gained confidence, and happily plays with his peers. His play and social skills have really improved and continue to do so. I know that a large part of this is due to his time at CDI.  We will be forever grateful for the incredible boost that CDI provided.

Cathy and Anthony

Meet some CDI Children and Parents

What is the Early Start Denver Model?

The ESDM is a naturalistic, play-based intervention model for young children with neuro-developmental delays aged 12-60 months built on a strong evidence base of clinical trials.
It can be delivered across multiple settings including education settings, community clinics and the family home during typical play and daily routines.
Evidence supports the ESDM’s ability to accelerate a child’s development, particularly in the areas of social communication and cognition.

Autism Early Intervention Sydney

ESDM: A Multi-disciplinary Model

The ESDM Therapy delivered at the CDI considers all domains of the child’s development.
This is why we often see such rapid progress when compared to traditional forms of early intervention

Multi Disciplinary Model Autism Specific Early Intervention for Children

“We are so pleased with the improvements we have seen in our son since beginning ESDM therapy. The therapists have been amazing in their approach to connect with our little boy. Most importantly, our son always has a big smile on his face as soon as we arrive at the CDI. He enjoys every therapy session and has a great bond with his therapist.”

Leah, son aged 2 years


Clinic Program

The ESDM Clinic is the ideal introduction to the play partner approach of the ESDM. It prepares a child for both future therapies including ESDM Inclusion Readiness Program and our Mainstream Support Program. The ESDM clinic is a high quality, highly intensive, one-to-one therapy with an ESDM therapist. The goal is to bridge the learning gaps that have accumulated over time and to construct the building blocks a child needs for social interaction

Inclusion Readiness Program

IRP targets the skills needed by children with ASD to participate fully in everyday life and to be included in a mainstream community education setting. This 3 hour group program facilitates the child’s learning, mastery and generalization of: 

  • Imitation skills, so they can learn from others
  • Social skills with adults and peers
  • Communication skills and Self-independence
  • Skills for transitioning between activities and participating in structured group time

The focus of the intervention is to target individual goals that work towards the child’s inclusion into natural settings and bringing the child back into the social loop.

Start Strong

The Start Strong program has been developed to equip children with any developmental delays including ASD, with the necessary skills to enter their mainstream school setting with greater confidence and improved social skills. The program is run with 6 enrolled children and is led by 2 Early Childhood Teachers who have Early Start Denver Model training.

During this play-based program, each child will be encouraged and supported to develop skills such as:

  • Social awareness
  • Confidence and involvement
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Fine motor strength and co-ordination
  • Literacy and numeracy skills
  • Concentration and task persistence
  • Cognitive skills

Mainstream Support Program

The mainstream support program was developed with the aim of supporting inclusive practices for children with ASD within their community education settings. Our staff will visit your child’s centre and guide their mainstream educators, enhancing inclusion and participation.

The following overarching mainstream support learning outcomes are targeted:

  1. Settling into an educational environment and following daily routines
  2. Independently transitioning between routines, activities and tasks
  3. Participating in learning activities within small and large group play experiences
  4. Playing alongside their peers and educators
  5. Using play materials appropriately and increase their repertoire of functional play
  6. Participating in personal independence tasks
  7. Develops new and appropriate skills to communicate with peers and adults

Parent Coaching Playgroup

CDI acknowledges parents as the expert and primary carer for their child and aims to help create inclusive homes and communities for children with ASD.

This group program aims to support parents in developing skills and confidence to know that each interaction with their child is benefiting their learning.

Small groups of 4 parent and child pairs come together with 2 ESDM therapists and work through a 10 week program. We aim to empower parents to interact and play with their child with confidence, whilst building connections with other families.

Picture Exchange Communication System(PECS)


PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System and teaches functional and meaningful communication. It is the exchange of a picture to request a desired item or activity. In the later phases of PECS,  the child creates simple sentences using “I want…” or “I see…”.

Research shows that PECS supports the development of speech.

A child may benefit from PECS if:

  • speech has not developed as expected
  • speech is only understood by familiar listeners (such as family members)
  • he/she does not initiate through speech eg. asking for what they would like or need

PECS is delivered in 30 minute sessions, initially with 2 therapists and then moving to 2 therapist.

SOS Feeding Therapy

SOS stands for Sensory Oral Sequential and is a multi-disciplinary approach to feeding therapy. Like ESDM it is play-based and allows a child to interact with food in a fun, non-stressful way.

A child may benefit from SOS feeding therapy if they:

  • avoid all foods in a specific texture or food group
  • are able to eat less than 20 foods consistently
  • have ongoing choking or gagging during meal times
  • have poor weight gain

SOS Feeding therapy is delivered in 45 minute clinic sessions with the parent present.

Feeding Therapy Sydney
Early Schooling

Start Mighty

Start Mighty is a program designed to support children who are preparing to enter a supported school environment the following year.

This includes Schools for a Specific Purpose and Support Units within mainstream school settings

This program is delivered in a small group of up to 6 children with 3 therapists.


The structure of each session is based on  intentional ‘curriculum-like’ activities around an idea or project, similar to a Kindergarten environment.

Our therapists encourage peer-to-peer relationships and focus on personal independence skills expected in Kindergarten.

Listen to a parent speak about her families journey with the CDI and how the combination of programs have helped her daughter, Sienna.

How do I enrol my child at the CDI?

Image showing cycle of therapy

Supporting parents through their NDIS journey

The CDI has a team member who can provide dedicated NDIS Support to enrolled families. Our support includes: 

  • NDIS workbook and other resources to prepare for your scheduled planning meeting
  • Guidance to help prepare a Family Impact Statement
  • Provision of a comprehensive NDIS progress report and quotation for  recommended therapy over the next 12 months
  • Access to webinars that will explain each step of the process including what is an Intensive therapy plan, how to budget your plan and the steps to apply for an internal review.

While the NDIS is a fantastic scheme, the process of attaining an appropriate plan for a young child with ASD or Developmental Delay can be daunting. But we are here to help you navigate the journey and ensure you are as prepared as you can be with all the evidence to support your application for an Intensive Therapy Plan.

Self managed or Plan Managed NDIS funding can be used to cover costs of all services at the CDI.

Differences between ABA and ESDM

“We’ve received a 12-month intensive plan from the NDIS review ….I would just like to thank you for all the support you have provided us and are excitedly looking forward to what’s ahead in Suventha’s development. From the bottom of my heart, I honestly feel as though the CDI was a blessing from God to us, and my family and I are so very thankful for how the CDI has given us hope.”

Yaso daughter aged 3 years


The ESDM is proven to work. Practiced worldwide, numerous clinical trials have validated the ESDM as a highly effective therapy for young children living with ASD, due to its comprehensive and naturalistic approach.

Clinical trials have shown the ESDM to provide greater improvement in cognitive and adaptive behaviour and language ability, while minimising the symptoms of autism.

Proven to be highly effective in both a one-to-one and group setting, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest the ESDM is also highly effective in a mainstream setting such as a childcare centre, pre-school or primary school, if delivered by ESDM trained educators.

Positive Outcomes - A CDI Case Study

At assessment this 3 year old child was meeting some milestones on Level 1 on the ESDM Curriculum Checklist which is equivalent to the developmental age of a 12 month old in terms of his skills across all domains. He is now entering level 3 on the ESDM Curriculum Checklist, which is equivalent to a 2 – 3 year old.

This demonstrates that he has made the equivalent of 12 months developmental progress across all domains in 5 months of therapy.

On entering the program this child was very unresponsive, with few social skills, and no social smiles. He had difficulty expressing his emotions and became easily frustrated.

He has now:

  • Developed the words and skills to make his needs and feelings known
  • Has significantly improved social skills, both at home and while in our centre
  • Addresses staff members by name and is learning the names of his peers
  • Is able to share toys and interactions with his peers
Child Development Institute Outcome

Our Team

The CDI programs are delivered by a multi-disciplinary team including allied health professionals and educators, who have all received intensive training in the Early Start Denver Model.

Each child enrolled in our programs has a dedicated Key Worker who delivers therapy, tracks progress, communicates with parents and runs quarterly reviews to set the next terms objectives that are in line with the family’s priorities.

Child Development Institute Team

6 reasons to find out more about
the Child Development Institute:


The CDI deliver high quality, evidence-based programs with proven results that are sustained over time.


Intensive hours are available across the week with programs that are tailored to your child’s needs.


The timing of a child’s therapy is critical. The younger a child is the greater their brain’s plasticity. In other words, there is a brilliant window where a child can learn skills to enhance the rest of their life.


Our multi-disciplinary team of staff have specific qualifications such as speech Pathology, OT or Early Childhood Teaching, and they receive intensive training in the Early Start Denver Model to ensure a consistent approach and optimal child outcomes.


Parents are supported through training programs, our ‘coffee morning’ series and on-going communication with your child’s Key Worker.


Specialised NDIS support is available to assist in securing an Intensive Therapy Plan that is appropriate to your child’s needs and will cover the cost of all CDI services.

Play-based early intervention now available on the Northern Beaches

Contact us to find out more about sessions with our experienced therapists.
Immediate start available

We have created a series of short webinars so you can find out more about how
the CDI can help children and families living with Autism.

Click on the button below to see the webinars most relevant to you.