Ziggurat Group Newsletter Volume 1

September, 2011
The UCC is an informal assessment tool designed to identify characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for the purpose of intervention design. There are three forms of the UCC for use with individuals across the lifespan. The high functioning (UCC-HF) and classic (UCC-CL) versions are designed for individuals from 6 years through adulthood. The UCC-EI is the newest version of the UCC. The early intervention version is designed for individuals from 3 months through the fifth year (72 months).

Research shows that early intervention of ASD is critical to improved long term outcomes. Unfortunately, there are few instruments available to identify ASD in children at 18 months or younger. Additionally, some children who will eventually receive a diagnosis of ASD do not present with classic symptoms at a young age, and thus miss opportunities for early intervention. Delays in identification and intervention are especially common for higher functioning individuals with ASD. If these children receive services at all, it is often not until the end of elementary school or later. The UCC-EI provides a way to more appropriately serve children at a younger age even when their diagnostic picture remains unclear.

In most early childhood programs, children are identified and served based on evaluation of developmental delays. Not all disabilities can be detected through examination of milestones alone. In fact, many young children with ASD, especially those who are meeting developmental milestones in communication, are not identified through this approach. Use of milestones alone fails to identify all concerns that require intervention. For example, significant tantrums, obsessive interests, or sensory differences may not be identified through the use of developmental milestones; however, these concerns should be recognized and addressed. An approach to serving children who are not obviously failing to meet specific developmental milestones or those whose atypicalities are not included in the traditional developmental curriculum is needed. The UCC-EI was developed to fill this void by not only taking into consideration the developmental normative data typically used to determine eligibility for early childhood programs, but also atypicalities and concerns that may be characteristic of ASD. For example, a childhood checklist may inquire about the age at which a child started speaking in phrases, whereas the UCC-EI includes multiple items that examine the child’s use of phrases as well as the quality of the utterances (e.g., presence of idiosyncratic language, echolalia, and joint attention deficits).  A screening instrument may include the age at which the child begins parallel play with peers; however, the UCC-EI also takes into account the objects with which the child plays, the quality of the interaction with peers, and the child’s ability to transition between play schemes. Atypicalities in these and other areas, such as hyperlexia, are not delays that would be detected through a developmental checklist but are very meaningful.

The UCC assesses needs in addition to emerging skills and strengths. This assessment serves as the foundation for development of a comprehensive individualized intervention plan. The UCC-EI is an integral component of a comprehensive planning process known as the Ziggurat Model; however, it may also be used separately.

Information gathered through use of the UCC-EI helps parents and professionals to plan an individualized comprehensive program using the Ziggurat Model. Further, assessment of underlying characteristics provides insight into which significant skills should be taught and how to design instruction in order to facilitate learning and bring about meaningful and long-lasting change. The UCC-EI offers an effective way to begin program planning - a comprehensive perspective.

The UCC-EI was created by Ruth Aspy and Barry Grossman with Kathleen Quill.  It is available from AAPC Publishing.  The UCC manual provides additional information as well as case studies and is also available from the publisher. You can learn more about the Ziggurat Model and the UCC at


We present on comprehensive planning and early childhood intervention using the UCC-EI and the Ziggurat Model. Please contact us for more information on hosting a workshop.



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