Learn Why the Ziggurat Model was Developed

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The Ziggurat framework can be used to address needs in school, home or any setting!

This framework is designed to meet underlying needs while capitalizing on strengths.

  • Create effective plans at home

  • Develop effective Individualized Education Plans that address priorities and lead to change

  • Complete Functional Behavior Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans that address the source of the "behaviors"

  • Develop meaningful assessment recommendations

  • Transition planning

  • Workplace planning

  • Consultation

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) based on a functional behavioral assessment. 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 addresses needs associated with autism and builds on skills

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Ziggurat Model?

    The Ziggurat Model is a framework for developing a comprehensive support program for individuals with autism. The framework helps to make sure that critical areas are addressed. The Model has multiple applications and can be used in the home, school, work, and community settings. It is also used as a self-help model.

  • Why did you name the model "ziggurat"?

    A ziggurat is a terraced or stair-stepped pyramid. We use the levels of the ziggurat to represent the five required levels of support for individuals on the autism spectrum.

  • Can the model be used for anyone on the autism spectrum?

    The Ziggurat Model is for use with people across the autism spectrum and for people of all ages.

  • Why aren’t communication and social skills levels on the Ziggurat?

    The levels of Ziggurat represent areas for support. They are collectively referred to as the Intervention Ziggurat. Each level is designed to address the characteristics of autism such as communication and social skill deficits. One may develop interventions to address these needs on any level of the Intervention Ziggurat.

  • What is a Task Demand intervention?

    Task Demands interventions involve removing obstacles or providing supports to facilitate success. We do not want the demands to exceed a person's skills; therefore, it is important to reduce demands and add necessary supports to ensure success.

  • What is the Individual Strengths and Skills Inventory (ISSI) and where can I find it?

    The Individual Strengths and Skills Inventory (ISSI) is an assessment tool that is incorporated into the Underlying Characteristics Checklist (UCC). The purpose of the ISSI is to help to identify strengths on which to build upon when designing a comprehensive plan.

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.

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 www.5pointscale.com

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.”

On-Demand Instruction on Your Schedule

The eight-week Ziggurat Model course is simple to implement and can be viewed from anywhere on any type of device. With your enrollment, you will receive:

• A Step-by-Step Action Plan Designed to Enact Change
• Weekly On-Demand Lessons that Fit Any Busy Schedule
• Online Community Support so You’ll Never Feel Alone
• Downloadable Resources to Guide You Through Every Step
• Certificate of Completion After Eight Hours of Instruction

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