Make a Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Creating a plan for your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an important key step in assuring that your goals and priorities for your child and family are addressed.  When a child receives a diagnosis of ASD it is overwhelming.   While a diagnosis does not change the core of who your child is, it does introduce you as a parent to a new world of services and supports that can help your child achieve his or her full potential.  

Creating a plan for your child and family enables you to identify what you as a parent(s) or primary caregiver see as priorities.  It helps you put all this information into one plan that you can share with educators, professionals, and others who provide support to your child and family.

Purpose of this section

In this section of the website we provide information and tools to assist you in developing a plan for your child.  As time goes on and your child grows, and you learn more information about ASD, you will likely modify this plan to best meet your child’s needs.  In this section, we introduce you to key areas that research indicates are important for a comprehensive program/plan for an individual with ASD.  We recommend reviewing these areas as you consider goals and priorities for your child.  These areas include:

The Big Four:

The Big Four are key areas that research indicates are critical to decreasing the likelihood that a child with ASD will have problem behavior.  

Essential Skills for Everday Life

The Essential Eight are skill areas that are critical to living a happy and productive life.  Some of these skills areas overlap with the Big Four.  

How to Make a Plan

Making a plan for your child with ASD assists you in focusing all the resources you are accessing for your child towards a common vision and common goals. Often a child with ASD receives services through various service systems, including early intervention or the public schools, day or employment programs, and private services in the community. Unfortunately, these services are often fragmented and as a parent, you may find yourself in the role of attempting to coordinate services provided between various professionals and in various settings.

The purpose of the Master Plan toolkit is to support you as a parent to identify goals that are a priority for your child with ASD, while also considering the needs of the rest of your family.  The Master Plan helps assure that all professionals and supports in a child and family’s life are moving the child and family towards a vision and goals that are of highest priority to the family.

We encourage you to download this toolkit and walk through each step of the process.  Even if you don't complete the full toolkit, using components of this process will assist you in identifying your priorities for your child and family.  Once you have these priorities identified, or the Master Plan completed, we encourage you to take it with you when you have a meeting with your child's school, day or employment program, or with other professionals who support your child.

   Download the Make a Plan Toolkit


The Big Four

Research shows us that the key to preventing challenging behavior, learning prosocial skills, and having more opportunities to participate in the community is related to how well an individual develops skills in the following four areas: communication, gaining attention, play & leisure, and coping (Ala’i-Rosales et al., 2018). By continuing to build and expand on your child’s skills in these four areas, you increase their ability to effectively navigate their learning environments in a way that can contribute to their overall quality of life over time, as well as prevent future problem behavior.

Consider how you can fold these four skill areas into your goals when developing your master plan. The toolkits below can provide a framework when developing these goals, and provide more information to help walk you through each of these skill areas.

Each toolkit follows a similar format to provide you with a framework to learn more about each area, provide resources to consider when teaching or assessing the skill area, and sample goals and goal worksheet to help as you identify and organize your next steps towards developing these skills with your child. These toolkits can also be used to help facilitate discussions when partnering with teachers and providers to develop goals.

This section of the website was influenced and inspired by the following research article: Ala'i-Rosales, S., Cihon, J. H., Currier, T., Ferguson, J. L., Leaf, J. B., Leaf, R., McEachin, J., & Weinkauf, S. M. (2018). The Big Four: Functional Assessment Research Informs Preventative Behavior Analysis. Behavior analysis in practice, 12(1), 222–234.


   Download the Developing  Coping Skills Toolkit

  Download the Developing Communication Skills Toolkit

  Download the Developing Play & Leisure Skills Toolkit

Coming soon are downloadable toolkits for:

•    Gaining Attention


Challenging Behavior Webinar

Challenging behavior comes in many forms, and can often interfere with day-to-day life for the child and family.  Participants in this one-hour webinar will learn the primary reasons children engage in challenging behavior, strategies to address the challenging behavior at home and in the community, and tools to help the child learn new skills.

  Watch What We Know Works:  Challenging Behavior

  Download the Challenging Behavior Webinar Worksheet

  Download Behavior Pathway Diagram examples

Essential Skills for Everyday Life

The essentials for living are eight must-have skills that are critical for individuals to have to live their fullest life. These skills include:

•    making requests
•    waiting
•    accepting removal of preferred items and activities
•    completing required tasks
•    accepting no
•    following directions
•    completing daily living skills
•    tolerating situations related to health and safety (McGreevy, Fry, & Cornwell, 2014).

When individuals have these functional life skills it increases their quality of life and opens up more opportunities for them to experience their world in a positive way. Additionally, by focusing on teaching these skills, individuals are less likely to experience challenging behavior in these areas.

Parents, educators, and clinicians can support children and youth with ASD in learning these skills from an early age.  Ideally, goals related to these skill areas should be incorporated in an education or therapy plan, along with parents supporting development of these skills at home and in the community. 

These eight essential skills are based on a book, Essential for Living: A communication, behavior and functional skills curriculum, assessment, skill-tracking instrument, and professional practitioner’s handbook for children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities by Patrick McGreevy, Troy Fry, and Colleen Cornwall.   For resources or to purchase the book visit


Transition to Adult Life

Secondary-transition is the process of preparing adolescents for life beyond high school, including independent living, employment, and post-secondary education. Service options for transition include publicly funded programs, such as special education through the local public schools, and independent professionals or community programs. The process of preparing for transition requires thought, careful planning, and collaboration between the individual with ASD, primary caregivers, and professionals.  It is never too early to begin thinking about skills your child needs to prepare for adult life. 

Nationally, eligible students can access transition services through the local public schools. The state department of education is responsible for ensuring the local school districts comply with the requirement of the Individual's with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), 2004. IDEA requires that transition services be in effect not later than the student’s ninth grade year or by the age of 16, whichever occurs first.  The Oklahoma State Department of Education has additional information about this process available on their website at .    

Check out the new section of our website with resources to prepare for the transition out of high school.