The Ziggurat Model: Release 2.1

Dr. Ruth Aspy, Ph.D., & Dr. Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D.

Ziggurat Model Release 2.1Ziggurat Model 2.1 2022 Excerpt_.pdf

Awarded the Autism Society's Literary Work of the Year in Education!

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.

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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.”
Watch Intro Video

Watch How The Ziggurat Model
Helps Teachers and Parents

If you're a teacher, 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.

Podcast: OCALI Inspiring Change

It's Different For Girls

Moderated by Ruth Aspy, Ph.D., and Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D.

A panel discussion with four autistic women about their diagnosis, their work, their personal and professional relationships, and their communities. Moderated by Dr. Ruth Aspy and Dr. Barry Grossman, licensed psychologists specializing in assessment and intervention for people on the autism spectrum. Recorded live at OCALICON 2019. You can find Kim Clairy’s poetry here.

Download Episode 5 Transcript

Podcast: OCALI Inspiring Change

"We Get Stuff Done”: A Conversation about Women and Autism

Moderated by Amy Bixler Coffin and Ruth Aspy, Ph.D.

The Rewind series resumes with a candid conversation with two autistic women and the parent of a young woman with autism as they share their personal stories of the journey to receiving a diagnosis, as well as the challenges that they faced in obtaining appropriate resources and services. Kelli Yeagley is a consultant, educator, and advocate specializing in autism, disability, and accessibility. Siena Castellon is author of The Spectrum Girl's Survival Guide: How To Grow Up Awesome and Autistic and creator of the Quantum Leap Mentoring website. Susan Rothschild is the mother to a young woman on the autism spectrum, Chloe Rothschild, who was featured in Episode 5 – “It’s Different for Girls.” OCALI’s Amy Bixler Coffin and psychologist Dr. Ruth Aspy co-facilitate the discussion.

Download Episode 23 Transcript

Book Chapters, Journal Articles, and Other Writings

Aspy, R. (2009).  How do I know if it is the autism or “just behavior?”

Aspy, R., Grossman, B.G., Myles, B.S., & Henry, S.A. (2016). FBA to Z: Functional Behavior and Intervention Plans for Individuals with ASD.

Aspy, R., & Grossman, B.G. (2013). Assessment and diagnosis of Aspergerʼs Disorder. In R.W. DuCharme & T.P. Gullotta (Eds.) Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for Professionals and Families – Second Edition. New York, NY: Springer Academic.

Aspy, R., & Grossman, B.G. (2011).  Underlying characteristics checklist manual including the individual strengths and skills inventory. 

Aspy, R., & Grossman, B.G. (2007). Assessing autism spectrum disorders: Guidelines for parents and educators. Autism Advocate, 48(3), 11-14. Click here to download article.

Aspy, R., & Grossman, B.G. (2007). Ziggurat Model. In B.S. Myles, T. C. Swanson, & J. Holversott (Eds.) Autism Spectrum Disorders: A handbook for parents and professionals. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Grossman, B. (2009). The Importance of Matching Student Needs to Intervention.

Grossman, B.G., & Aspy, R. (2007). Comprehensive Behavior Interventions for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In E.A. Boutot & B.S. Myles (Eds.). Autism spectrum disorders: Foundations, characteristics, and effective strategies. Boston, Mass: Pearson.

Myles, B. S., Coffin, A. B., Hudson, J., Lake, R. A., Grossman, B., & Aspy, R. (2012). Assessment for program planning (pp. 11-21). In Darlene E. Perner and Monica E. Delano (Eds.), Teaching students with autism spectrum disorders. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Myles, B.S., Grossman, B.G., Aspy, R., Henry, S.A., & Coffin, A.B. (2007).  Planning a comprehensive program for students with autism spectrum disorders using evidence-based practices. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 42(4), 398-409. Click to download.

Myles, B.S., Grossman, B.G., Aspy, R., & Henry, S.A. (2009).  Planning a comprehensive program for young children with autism spectrum disorders. International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education, 1(2),164-180. Click to download

Myles, B.S., Henry, S.A., Coffin, A.B., Grossman, B.G., & Aspy, R. (2007).  The CAPS & Ziggurat Models: Planning a comprehensive program for students with autism spectrum disorders using evidence-based practices. Advocate, 16-20. Click to download.

Myles, B. S., Smith, S. M., Aspy, R., Grossman, B. G., & Henry, S. (2012). Evidence based practices: The Ziggurat Model and the Comprehensive Autism Planning System (CAPS). In D. Zager, M. L. Wehmeyer, & Simpson, R. L. (Eds.), Educating students with autism spectrum disorders: Research-based principles and practices (126-148). New York, NY: Routledge.

Smith, S., Myles, B.S., Aspy, R., Grossman, B.G., & Henry, S.A. (2010). Sustainable change in quality of life for individuals with ASD: Using a comprehensive planning process.  Focus on Exceptional Children, 43(3), 1-22. Click to download.