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Davis Stepping Stones Program

Beginning steps to the Davis Autism Approach Program


Davis Stepping Stones is a holistic, foundational program that provides wrap-around support for individuals on the autism spectrum who are young or have limited language. 


The program steps each person through a sequence of essential early childhood development stages. It uses a team approach to developing strong foundational life concepts for each child, by working with the child’s support person to coach and equip them alongside the child. This support person may be a parent, another relative, a teacher, or another carer.

Who would benefit from a Davis Stepping Stones Program?

  • Autistic individuals under eight years of age.

  • Autistic individuals of any age with very limited (or no) language


What is involved in a Davis Stepping Stones program?


Davis Stepping Stones is a four step program.


Step 1: Tools for the helper 
Each support person learns two mental strategies to help them remain calm and relaxed while working with their child/student. These tools are called ‘Release’ and ‘Dial’. 
‘Release’ allows the support person to ease any stress, tension or anxiety they may be feeling.  Autistic individuals are often highly sensitive to their environment and the emotions of the people around them. When working with children with autism, if we are feeling anxious we can inadvertently add to their own sense of anxiety. Maintaining a calm state provides a calm environment for the child and enhances their receptiveness to learning. 

‘Dial’ helps the support person to determine and self-regulate their personal energy levels. This promotes positive interactions with others, particularly the child receiving the program. ​


Step 2:  Awareness of Self 
The participant (child) is guided through a process that helps them become more present in the world. They develop accurate perceptions and gain an awareness of Self.  This process includes: 

  • Auditory Orientation – the participant listens to a specifically engineered sound through headphones leading up to and, if necessary, during program sessions. This auditory stimulus – affectionately referred to as the ‘Davis ting’ was designed by Ron Davis to help each participant to develop accurate, stable perceptions and an awareness of being separate from others. 

  • Release – a tool to help manage stress and anxiety levels.

  • Creating models of Self, another and others in plastilina clay.

  • Exploring the idea of Self, another and others in the real world.


Step 3: Davis Stepping Stones life concepts 
Once the participant has developed more accurate perception and is more present in the world, we can help them to learn fundamental life concepts that they may not have picked up previously.


The focus of the Stepping Stones life concepts is to facilitate solid understanding of the following fundamental ideas, as they relate to oneself and to others:

  • change  

  • consequence  

  • cause and effect, and 

  • before and after

This is achieved through explicit teaching of each concept.  Each concept is introduced through demonstration and experienced together with the child in a fun way that appeals to their interest. Then the child is guided to create a clay model of their own choosing, which visually represents that concept. For example, they may choose to depict the life concept of change by making a flat balloon becoming a. full balloon out of clay.

Step 4: Integration of life concepts 
The most effective way to consolidate learning is for the child to have many meaningful, fun experiences during each program session. After each concept has been modelled in clay, the child needs to have lots of opportunities to recognise and experience the concept in the real world, with help from their support person. These experiences are essential, as they help the participant to integrate the concept into their own identity and establish a foundational internal ‘filing system’ for future thinking and behaviour. 

​Physically interacting with the concepts in their day-to-day environment embeds an understanding of these important life principles and enables the participant to draw on understanding to make sense of situations within their daily life.


Once these concepts have been integrated and a strong foundation has been created, the participant will start to show more interest in the concept of time.  They may start to ask ‘How long ...?’, ‘What comes after ...?’, ‘When will...?'  This is showing readiness for the next set of concepts: time, sequence, order and disorder. When an individual reaches this point, the support person can contact the Davis Facilitator to discuss the next step in the Stepping Stones process.

What kind of results do people see with the Stepping Stones program?


Clients who have completed the program have experienced too many changes to list here. The list below outlines some of the general improvements that Davis Autism Facilitators have reported seeing in their clients. The results have been confirmed through the Foundation’s internal research and include:

  • better self-awareness (e.g. expressing appropriate pain when injured)

  • improved self-regulation (can calm themselves down)

  • fewer meltdowns

  • less resistance to change

  • willingness to try new things

  • increased ability to refer to self as ‘I’ or ‘me’

  • increase in pretend play

  • growth in language

  • increased understanding of cause and effect, and

  • can follow instructions using the ideas of before and after.

What are the options for accessing this program?

Every individual has unique needs. We have developed a variety of delivery options to choose from, so you can find the best solution to suit your needs.

"There has been phenomenal progress with my son thanks to his Stepping Stones program."


Pfanani, father

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