After the diagnosis, at the start of each school year, during transitions from preschool to elementary school, to middle school, to high school, and beyond, individuals with autism and their families have many questions: Which direction do we need to pursue? What is the best path? How do we achieve the goals we have set? How do we know if we are reaching our goals? And so on. Unlike most autism interventions that focus on specific skills, COMPASS is a comprehensive consulting intervention designed to bring together the people with the most frequent interactions with the student – parents, teachers, therapists, etc. – to jointly identify the key social, communication, and independent work/learning skills that have a pivotal impact on other areas of development. For example, a skill such as initiation impacts asking for help, starting a work task, and making social greetings. These pivotal goals must be identified and carefully crafted for the individual student and an evidenced-based intervention plan developed and modified based on the student’s needs, preferences, and strengths. The resulting COMPASS intervention plans are proven to result in better IEP outcomes compared to special education outcomes in general. Proven in three randomized controlled trials COMPASS doubles the IEP success of students with autism.
The Collaborative Model for Competence and Success (COMPASS) is an alternative framework for improving the quality of services and outcomes for children, youth, and adults with autism spectrum disorder. When we have an effective plan, we have balance. That is, our personal and environmental challenges we experience are supported and outweighed by our personal and environment supports. This is true for all of us. When individuals with autism have supportive environments, they will experience competence and success.
COMPASS comes from 20 years of work first described in 1996 as the autism competency framework created for adults receiving community-based services, and more recently for children and youth.
Unlike traditional behavioral consultation, COMPASS targets the pivotal skills underlying autism (social communication, learning skills) that impact other areas of development. Further, what makes COMPASS different is the focus on quality of life. COMPASS is based on the developmental theory that competency is the result of interactions between individuals and their environments (Ruble & Dalrymple, 1996). If we can carefully examine and identify the contribution that the environment makes toward reducing individual risk factors and enhancing protective factors, we can influence the development of important quality of life skills. Competence looks different across the lifespan and is person-specific.
This diagram offers a brief overview of what each step of the COMPASS process looks like and how the consultation and coaching sessions will progress over the duration of the intervention. For further questions regarding the COMPASS consultation and framework, feel free to reach out to us by clicking here.
COMPASS begins with an initial 3-hr joint session using the COMPASS Profile to come to a shared understanding of the child with all team members (parents, teachers, therapists, etc). The COMPASS Profile assesses the child’s/student’s challenges and strengths related to social skills, adaptive/self-management, communication, problem behaviors, learning skills, and sensory avoidances and preferences by bringing together the team to obtain a holistic understanding of the child at home and at school. The COMPASS profile and the discussion that takes place helps pinpoint critical social, communication, and work behavior/learning goals and informs the teaching plans that are generated for each goal. This helps ensure that the right goal is selected for the child and that the child’s intervention is personalized to the child based on his / her strengths, challenges, and preferences. We invite you to build a COMPASS profile for your child or student.
Following the initial consultation are four teacher coaching sessions lasting about 1-hr each. Each session is standardized and allows for assessment of student goal attainment that is used for evidence-based teacher coaching including performance feedback monitoring and teacher instructional modification / self-reflection on the implementation of the teaching plans. During coaching, teachers and students provide a video or artifact (grades, diaries) to determine progress using psychometric equivalence tested goal attainment scaling (PET-GAS). Supportive problem solving occurs based on the performance feedback and fidelity monitoring.
We first tested COMPASS for preschool and elementary age students as a consulting intervention to improve IEP outcomes and compared results with a group of students who received services as usual (control group). We found IEP outcomes doubled in COMPASS when evaluated by an observer unaware of the group assignment for the children (Ruble, Dalrymple, & McGrew, 2010). In a replication study, we tested COMPASS again with a new set of teachers and students and got similar results. But we also tested another group that received web-based coaching and found this approach to be effective (Ruble, McGrew, Dalrymple, Toland, & Jung, 2013). Overall, children who receive COMPASS make at least 1 standard deviation improvement over the comparison group. In other words, children who received COMPASS had goal attainment scores that were greater than 80% of children in the comparison group.
The third intervention COMPASS for Transition (COMPASS-T), was tested in an RCT with high school students in their final year of school with a focus on improving IEP and postsecondary outcomes (Ruble, McGrew, Toland, Dalrymple, Adams & Snell-Rood, 2018). A very large effect (2.1) was observed for IEP goal attainment outcomes based on an independent observer. This means that students who received COMPASS did better than more than 90% of those who did not receive COMPASS.
Next, we tested a parent-mediated version of COMPASS called COMPASS for Hope (C-HOPE). C-HOPE was designed for parents of children with autism and challenging behavior. C-HOPE was effective for decreasing child problem behavior (p<.001); increasing parent competency (p=.02) and decreasing parent stress (p<.001) (Kuravackel, et al., 2018).