Helping Autistic Children and Adolescents at Home and in School

The Ziggurat Model: A Framework for Developing Comprehensive Interventions for Individuals on the Spectrum

Autism can be stressful. Autistic children and students may find themselves overwhelmed by the challenges they face every day.  Feeling misunderstood, rejected, or in a constant state of crisis, it is not uncommon for them to display meltdowns/shutdowns and even to develop anxiety and depression.  Caring parents and teachers want to help. They want to make a difference but feel frustrated because their efforts do not seem to pay off - like they are working in the dark and may not know how to help. Time is always a factor.  Parents are worried about not only today but the future. They may worry: 

  • Will my child ever have friends?
  • How can I get my child through the morning without a meltdown?
  • Will my child be punished for his autism?
  • How will she ever hold a job?
  • Will my child ever be happy?
  • What is going to happen to him after we are gone?

Teachers and other educational professionals don’t want their student to have a “lost” school year.  They may worry: “Do I have the skills to help this student?” “Will this student keep others from learning?”  or “How will I survive this school year?”  

Both parents and educators want to help instill skills for success. They need answers - "How will we overcome all the obstacles?"  What they need is the Ziggurat Model. 

Learn about the award winning Ziggurat Model that has helped families and educators for over 15 years!   

The Ziggurat Model is a system for designing comprehensive strategies and supports for all individuals on the autism spectrum. The Ziggurat Model was created to simplify a complex process. The focal point of the model is a five tiered research-centered system that capitalizes on strengths to address underlying needs. It is assessment driven and provides a framework that guides parents, professionals, and autistics themselves in creating effective supports and strategies.

The Ziggurat Model is used in home, school, mental health, and other therapeutic settings. The Ziggurat Model is also used by autistic adolescents and adults as a self-help strategy. 

Recent trends in special education emphasize the use of scientifically based research approaches along with a focus on multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). Additionally, there is a strong push for incorporating positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) based on a functional behavioral assessment. The Ziggurat Model facilitates these practices.

The Ziggurat Model is unique - simple to use and comprehensive. While it is easy to find volumes of information describing specific interventions, it is difficult to find information on how to develop an effective plan. Autistics, parents, and professionals will find the framework of the Ziggurat Model to be a useful guide in developing more thorough and effective supports and strategies.

The Ziggurat Model will help you to develop supports that work.  There are four steps to the framework:

  • Assess underlying needs and strengths for planning
  • Identify meaningful priorities for change
  • Develop a plan that works: The five essential levels of support
  • Implement the plan

You can read more about our award winning book below and download a free excerpt.

Ziggurat Model 2.1 2022 Excerpt_.pdf

Online Ziggurat Model Training

Start your Transformation Today for $79 (use promo code "zigin2023")

  • Steps to Create a Plan

    Step-by-step action plan for creating real change for your child or student.

  • On-demand Lessons

    Weekly on-demand course content - exclusive access to recorded lessons for 6 months.

  • Online Community

    Online learning community where you can post questions for the authors and share and collaborate with other community members.

  • Assessment for Transformation (sold separately)

    Underlying Characteristics Checklist help you to see strengths and needs and avoid common pitfalls in developing a plan.

  • Downloadable Resources

    Receive downloadable resources to guide you through every step of the award winning Ziggurat Model framework.

  • Certificate of completion

    Receive a certificate of 10 hours of instruction from the Ziggurat Group.

Course Benefits

This 8-week transformational course includes on-demand content, online community, and everything you need to get started now.

  • Pre-recorded instruction with unlimited access for 6 months

  • Targeted activities, examples, and worksheets to guide you every step of the way

  • Access to online community where you can ask the authors questions and share and collaborate with other members

  • Certificate of completion

Watch Intro Video

Watch How The Ziggurat Model
Helps Teachers, Providers, and Parents

The Ziggurat Model has been adopted by schools and agencies.
It helps you to work smarter not harder!

If you're a teacher or service provider, you don't want your students to lose any time—
but you may also wonder if you have the skills to help a student
challenged by autism.

If you're the parent of an autistic child, you want your child to live
the most fulfilling life possible—but you might feel helpless at times.

Course curriculum

    1. Recommended course materials

    2. Review

    3. Assessment for Intervention Planning: The Underlying Characteristics Checklist (UCC)

    4. Selecting the Version of the UCC

    5. Completing the UCC

    6. Action Plan: Completing the Underlying Characteristics Checklist

    7. Session Summary and Bridge to Next Session

    1. Review

    2. Identifying Priorities Using the Global Guide: Part 1 - Vision

    3. Identifying Priorities Using the Global Guide: Part 2 - Settings

    4. Identifying Priorities Using the Global Guide: Part 3 - Quality of Life

    5. Identifying Priorities Using the Global Guide: Part 4 - Key UCC Areas

    6. Identifying Priorities Using the Global Guide: Part 5 Key or "Prioritized" UCC Items

    7. Action Plan, Summary, and Bridge to Next Session

    1. Review

    2. Sensory Differences

    3. Biological Needs

    4. Case Example: Marcus Part 1

    5. Using the Ziggurat Worksheet: A Guided Tour

    6. Case Example: Marcus Part 2

    7. You May Notice . . . A Special Note About Reinforcement

    8. Reinforcement: Part 1

    9. Reinforcement: Part 2

    10. Action Plan, Summary, and Bridge to Next Session

    1. Review

    2. Structure and Visual/Tactile Supports Overview

    3. Using Visual Supports for Assessment, Communication, and Intervention

    4. Action Plan, Summary, and Bridge to Next Session

    1. Review

    2. Task Demands and Positive Environment

    3. How Would You Remove Obstacles? Activity One

    4. Activity One Discussion

    5. Case Example (Marcus) and Illustration of Ziggurat Model Worksheet

    6. Skills to Teach

    7. Activity Three: What Skills Would You Teach?

    8. Activity Three Discussion

    9. Case Example: Marcus

    10. Action Plan, Summary, and Bridge to Next Session

About this course

  • 64 lessons
  • 10 hours of video content
  • Downloadable Tools
  • Online Learning Community
  • Certificate of Completion

The Ziggurat Model's Founders

Meet the licensed psychologists who have created the Ziggurat Model.

Ruth Aspy, Ph.D.

Dr. Aspy specializes in transdisciplinary assessment and intervention for individuals on the spectrum. She understands that treating behaviors will not result in real change. Instead, underlying needs must be addressed.

Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D.

Dr. Grossman specializes in counseling and assessment for people who are on the spectrum, as well as their families. He teaches that intervention cannot be successful unless it’s comprehensive and all steps are covered.

Read what people are saying about the Ziggurat Model!


“I found this book to be extremely thorough and comprehensive. There are many applications for a text like this. I personally would like to buy about 10 copies and hand them out to all of my child’s special and general education teachers, but I also believe that other team members (psychologists, therapists, and parents) can benefit from this comprehensive resource. The book does an excellent job of painting a picture that will help many “see” autism and understand that a comprehensive plan can make a huge difference. I’ve had the privilege of working with the authors and know that their comprehensive view and strategies have helped my child.”

Parent and author

Kristi Sakai

“Comprehensive and well-researched, but also understandable and accessible, the ZM addresses the multi-faceted needs of children with ASD in the school setting. Its very premise is that while there are commonalities, the characteristics of autism impact every student differently. This program is ingenious in that it creates an individualized plan and a framework in which to implement it. It is a well-oiled mechanism that smooths the wrinkles out of the school day for every child. In addition, as a parent it’s exciting for me to think of the multitude of ways we can further use the information we gain about our kids through, for example, using the UCC (Underlying Characteristics Checklist). The ZM is not merely a support system, but a celebration of what is unique about our kids on the spectrum and a springboard for their future.”

Autism Education Specialist

Kari Dunn Buron

The Ziggurat Model, developed by Ruth Aspy and Barry Grossman, is a model for intervention that addresses the underlying issues of autism as they impact a student's ability to learn and thrive in our school environments. This highly efficient program clearly illustrates for educational teams how to develop solid and effective IEPs that "keep the autism in mind." The approach is practical, research based, and easy to implement. I highly recommend the use of the Ziggurat Model when developing either individual plans or creating district-wide autism programming standards. Kari Dunn Buron Autism Education Specialist Author of The Incredible 5-Point Scale, and When My Worries Get Too Big

Professor of child psychiatry, pediatrics, and psychology

Fred R. Volkmar, M.D.

“A practical and helpful book that provides a comprehensive approach to intervention for more able individuals with autism. The book is enhanced by use of cases and diagrams and has a practical orientation. It will be of great benefit to professionals and parents alike.”

Occupational Therapist, Author of The Interoception Curriculum

Dr. Kelly Mahler, OTD, OTR/L

The Ziggurat Model provides a respectful framework for helping you identify how you can better support autistic children and adults. Many times we do not account for or skip over very important aspects of the autistic experience thus failing to provide supports that are an actual match for what the person truly needs to thrive. I love the Ziggurat Model's tiered approach that helps us consider underlying needs in a sequential manner. If you are seeking to grow in your ability to provide meaningful supports, learn about the Zig! ——Dr. Kelly Mahler OTD, OTR/L, author of The Interoception Curriculum: A Step-by-Step Framework for Developing Mindful Self-Regulation

Executive Director of the EPIC School, Founding Chairman of the Scientific Council for the Organization for Autism Research

Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D.

“With the Ziggurat Model of intervention, Drs. Aspy and Grossman have synthesized the research on program planning and functional behavior assessment into a useful and user-friendly decision model leading to the development of truly comprehensive, functionally determined educational and behavior support plans. Highly recommended.”

Author, Presenter, Autism Advocate

Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D.

“In the past ten years, I have seen three materials that I believe have the potential to advance the progress of children and youth with ASD. One is the Ziggurat Model. Aspy and Grossman understand ASD in a way that most people do not. They have created a simple-to-use, yet comprehensive model to ensure that children’s needs are met throughout the school day. The Ziggurat program is innovative, based on best practices and focused on the child’s needs. I wish that I would have created this model. It is simply brilliant.”

Program Director of the Autism Center at OCALI

Amy E. Bixler Coffin, M.S.

“I love this book! In this much-anticipated publication, Aspy and Grossman have done an exceptional job at providing a user-friendly process and framework for designing comprehensive interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. It is a must-have reference for all educators, clinicians, and parents who work and live with children with ASD.”

Course Schedule

Helping Autistic Children and Adolescents at Home and In School

Session 1:

Helping Autistic Children and Adolescents at Home and in School: Overview of the Ziggurat Model

Session 2:

Seeing the Underlying Autism: A Path for Change

Session 3:

Identifying Priorities for Meaningful Change: The Global Plan

Session 4:

The Five Essential Levels:

Part 1: Sensory Differences and Biological Needs

Part 2: Respectful Reinforcement

Session 5:

The Five Essential Levels:

Part 3: Structure and Visual/Tactile Supports

Session 6: 
The Five Essential Levels:
Part 4: Task Demands/Positive Environment
Part 5: Skills to Teach
Session 7:

Creating the Intervention Plan for Change: Addressing Priorities Step-by-Step

Session 8:
Putting the Plan into Action: Implementing the Plan for Change and Course Summary 
Session 9:
(sold separately)

Addressing Behavior Challenges: Creating a Specific Ziggurat FBA    
This course extends the Ziggurat Model training. 

Learn to create a Ziggurat plan to address a specific behavior concern.

Learn about the Ziggurat FBA which solves limitations of the typical functional behavior assessment.  Using the Ziggurat FBA, create a plan that builds on strengths and addresses the underlying autism. 

Downloadable tools are included.

The Ziggurat Model is perfect for special educators

IEPs are better with the Ziggurat Model!

The Ziggurat Model helps staff to complete multiple components of the IEP. The framework helps school staff to remain in compliance with federal and state guidelines. Specifically, recent trends in special education law emphasize the use of scientifically based research approaches along with a focus on response to intervention (RTI). Additionally, there is a strong push for incorporating positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) and multi-tiered system of supports (MTTS). The Ziggurat Model is consistent with these practices.

  • Facilitates effective collaboration with parents and staff

  • Identify present levels of academic and functional performance (PLAAFP) in areas such as social, communication, and emotion regulation

  • Develop accommodations that address key needs

  • Complete BETTER functional behavior assessments (FBAs)

  • Develop a behavior intervention plan (BIP) that addresses critical needs

  • Facilitates a person-centered approach to program development

  • Develop transition plans that address needs associated with autism and build on skills

Save $250 Now!

Use the code "zigin2023" and pay only $99 today

Add the revolutionary Ziggurat FBA course for $49

We accept purchase orders.
Contact us for details.

30 Day Money Back Guarantee!

We want to do everything we can to help you on your journey. That is why we are offering the first lesson for free!

After you register and pay for the full course, if it doesn't work out you can get a refund for a full 30 days (some restrictions apply - see terms and conditions).


  • Do you accept purchase orders?

    Yes. Please contact us at for more information on purchasing tickets.

  • I'm learning with others in the same room. How many tickets do we need to purchase?

    Each student who purchases a ticket will have a separate log in. The student will receive a copy of the assessment tools and a certificate of completion. This means that families only need to purchase one ticket. Teachers, school staff, and other professionals should each purchase a ticket. With the exception of families, we do not permit sharing a single account. For agencies seeking to train large groups, we offer in-person and virtual options with no limit on the number of attendees.

  • Why is the course so long?

    Creating a successful plan takes time. The Ziggurat Model is the key to developing a plan that works. We want you to create this transformation for your child or student.

  • Do you offer refunds?

    Yes! For on-demand courses, you may cancel the course for 30 days provided that you have not viewed content past the free preview. There are no refunds for any courses that are “on-demand” with no free previews or when the user has viewed paid content. To cancel an order or request a refund, contact

  • I'm a novice. Is this course right for me? OR I'm an expert. Is this course right for me?

    Yes! This course is intended for participants of all skill levels. Novices will learn more about autism and the course will introduce you to a variety of research-based approaches. Advanced learners will gain a deeper understanding of autism and expand their knowledge of how to combine approaches to be effective.

  • Will my certificate count for required professional continuing education credits?

    The Ziggurat Group and its providers are not pre-approved by professional organizations to offer continuing education (CE) credit hours. We do offer a Certificate of Completion that many professions accept for non-approved providers. Please check the licensing/CE requirements for your profession.

  • Where can I order copies of the Underlying Characteristics Checklists?

    The Underlying Characteristics Checklists and other materials can be ordered from our online store at:


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