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Lauren Franz

Name: Lauren Franz

Qualification: MBChB, MPH

Position: Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Global Health, Duke University; Principle Investigator, ESDM Project & Honorary Senior Lecturer, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Cape Town





Title: Pilot Study to Improve Access to Early Intervention for Autism in Africa


Problem: About 1 percent of the world population has autism and very limited access to treatment and support. There are global efforts underway to increase capacity for autism services and help families gain access to evidence-based treatment.


Project: With the support of an early career development award from the National Institute of Mental Health, the team aims to adapt and implement the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) intervention for children with autism and their families in South Africa. ESDM is an early intervention with a strong developmental focus that can be used in children 12 to 60 months of age. It is a model that can be delivered in multiple ways: one-on-one with a therapist, through parent coaching, in a group preschool setting, and through telehealth. ESDM strategies increase child motivation for social engagement and sensitize adult caregivers to child communication attempts. ESDM can promote the child’s social, cognitive, and language development.