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To help individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) achieve the best life possible, comprehensive program planning is necessary. As the prevalence of ASD continues to increase, the pressure on professionals to meet the complex needs of these individuals has increased in equal measure.

Estimated Time to Complete: 3 hours

  • What's Included
  • 55 pages
  • Pre/post-assessments
  • Optional $30 certficate
  • Identify the steps to design a comprehensive program plan
  • List five areas required for a comprehensive intervention plan using the Ziggurat Model
  • List the eight domains of the Underlying Characteristics Checklists
  • Describe the Comprehensive Autism Planning System
  • Identify common pitfalls in intervention design for individuals with ASD

Module Authors

Ruth Aspy, Ph.D.

Ruth Aspy, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist who specializes in assessment and intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. She is co-creator of a comprehensive model of intervention. Along with Dr. Barry Grossman, Dr. Aspy has written The Ziggurat Model, winner of the 2008 Autism Society of America Award for literary book of the year. Dr. Aspy speaks internationally. She has experience in both clinical and school settings. Dr. Aspy has facilitated in the establishment of innovative training programs for parents of children with ASD.

Barry Grossman, Ph.D.

Barry G. Grossman, Ph.D. is co-owner of the Ziggurat Group, which specializes in transdisciplinary assessment and comprehensive intervention for individuals with ASD. Dr. Grossman, along with his co-author, Dr. Aspy, wrote The Ziggurat Model-a book on designing interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The Ziggurat Model, which earned the Literary Achievement Award from the Autism Society of America, is being used successfully throughout the United States and internationally. Dr. Grossman serves on the Autism Society of America's Panel of Professional Advisors.

Shawn A. Henry, M.Ed.

Shawn A. Henry, M.ED. is the Executive Director at OCALI. I am engaged with state and national stakeholders to advance state and system-wide solutions to improve outcomes for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, sensory disabilities, and other physical and developmental disabilities. By holding leadership roles on national and state advisory boards, committees and interagency workgroups involving policymakers, educators, parents, individuals and other professionals, I stay closely connected and involved with stakeholders. My Comprehensive Autism Planning System has been utilized in districts across the country.

Amy Bixler Coffin, M.S.

Amy Bixler Coffin, M.S., is program director of the Autism Center and Program Manager of the Multisystem Navigation Center at OCALI. A special educator for 32 years, Coffin has served as an intervention specialist, low-incidence supervisor, director of special education, and autism program director. She currently coordinates and provides regional and statewide professional development for districts, families, and organizations. Coffin has presented at state, national, and international conferences, contributed to several articles and book chapters, and has authored a book on supporting individuals with ASD in the community.

Chris Filler

Chris Filler has been employed at the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) since 2007. Throughout her 30+ year career, Chris has focused on supporting individuals with autism and developmental disabilities and their families in positions that include Early Intervention Service Coordinator, Family Resource Specialist, Autism & Behavior Consultant, Program Director of the OCALI Lifespan Transitions Center, and Co-Manager of the OCALI Multi-System Navigation Center. Chris has supported the development of supports and resources for youth with disabilities to assist in the transition to adulthood and led a state initiative in Ohio to develop an interagency transition framework to support youth as they transition from school to community employment. Chris co-developed and co-leads an Ohio DODD project to hire, train and direct coaches to support multi-system youth with complex needs and their families in their home and community.

Wendy Szakacs, M.S.

Wendy Szakacs is an OCALI Regional Consultant for northeast /eastern Ohio. She develops evidence-based materials, provides technical assistance and professional development leading projects in social competence, bullying, behavior, communication, and executive function. Szakacs collaborates with regional partners in the creation and presentation of professional development to local school district staff and families. She has presented at local, state, and national conferences on various topics about autism spectrum disorder, including comprehensive program planning, structured teaching, social competence, challenging behavior, and executive function.

Julie Short, M.A.

Julie Short is a regional autism consultant at OCALI. She coordinates and provides regional and statewide PD, consultation services and technical assistance to improve outcomes for those with ASD.  Short has participated on the National Community of Practice of Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is a member of the National Autism Leadership Collaborative and Statewide Autism/Low Incidence Collaborative.  Short has co-developed online electronic book studies for autism focused professional learning communities. She is an adjunct professor at Ashland University. Prior to OCALI, Short taught elementary and middle school, teaching both general education and special education.

Denise Sawan Caruso, M.S., CCC/SLP

Denise Sawan Caruso, MA is a licensed speech/language pathologist in the state of Ohio. She has over 40 years experience working with children and adults with challenging behaviors, including autism spectrum disorder. She currently provides consultations and professional development to schools and families living and working with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. She has presented nationally on behavior, autism, and parent/professional collaboration.

Modules on this site are always free. If you would like proof of completion, you can purchase a certificate when you have successfully completed this module. The certificate will provide contact hours for this module.

Graduate credit for courses is available through OCALI's partnership with Ashland University. Access information about course options and semester dates in the Search.

Continuing education credit from providers such as ASHA and NASW is in progress. For questions contact

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