Book Review

08/06/07: Ziggurat Model for Autism and Asperger's

A new manual uses the visual and organizational model of a Ziggurat, an ancient terraced pyramid, to bring organizational structure to the maze of information that must be considered when planning for the home, school or community life of any person with autism. The Ziggurat Model: A Framework for Designing Comprehensive Interventions for Individuals with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome is by Ruth Aspy, PhD, and Barry G. Grossman, PhD.

The word "ziggurat" may become part of the essential vocabulary of professionals and parents since we now have a framework that dictates our consideration of the essential factors. The base of the pyramid is "Sensory Differences and Biological Needs." The receding steps then continue with "Reinforcement," "Structure and Visual Support," "Task Demands," and "Skills to Teach."

Each level of consideration is handled in an easy-to-access manner that makes hands-on collaborative problem-solving possible. Comprehensive reviews of available interventions and research are included at the end of each section.

To effectively approach the Ziggurat Model, the authors have developed several tools. It is apparent that they have a deep understanding of the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) since they provide highly structured visual organizers and attach concrete analogies to abstract concepts.

The first tool is the Underlying Characteristics Checklist. This informal, non-standardized assessment is designed to identify characteristics across a number of domains that are associated with ASD.

Another effective tool is the ABC-Iceberg. This model encourages speech-language pathologists to realize that the behaviors we observe are only the tip of the iceberg and to consider the unseen causes that lie beneath the surface of the water.

The reader also is provided with the Ziggurat Worksheet. This can be completed as a global intervention approach or targeted to specific areas of concern. My one suggestion for improvement is that the authors make this worksheet available on a computer disk so that information can be entered and sections can be expanded as needed. As it is currently presented, the section sizes are too small to address all the information that needs to be included.

This is not just a reference book with some good ideas; it is an essential tool for clinicians for when they're planning intervention for individuals with ASD. When applied by a well-chosen collaborative team, the Ziggurat Model has the potential to hold the "hidden treasure" we have all been searching for.

Peg Reichardt is on staff at Glen Park School in New Berlin, WI.

The book can be obtained from the Autism Asperger Publishing Company, online: Price: 49.95.

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