‘The name of the game is play’: New autism clinic opens in Hatfield

  • Leyden native Liza Ashley has opened a clinic in Hatfield for children with autism with her partner, Alex Marquez. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • “At Zephyr, the name of the game is play,” founder Liza Ashley says. “The clinic was designed with intention every step of the way, featuring themed play spaces that encourage exploration amidst a calm, natural backdrop.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/TRISH CRAPO

  • Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare, a new applied behavior analysis (ABA) clinic, has opened its doors at 62 Main St. in Hatfield. Zephyr provides full-day, one-to-one ABA services to children with autism. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/TRISH CRAPO

  • Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare, a new applied behavior analysis (ABA) clinic, has opened its doors at 62 Main St. in Hatfield. Zephyr provides full-day, one-to-one ABA services to children with autism. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/TRISH CRAPO

  • Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare, a new applied behavior analysis (ABA) clinic, has opened its doors at 62 Main St. in Hatfield. Zephyr provides full-day, one-to-one ABA services to children with autism. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/TRISH CRAPO

  • Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare, a new applied behavior analysis (ABA) clinic, has opened its doors at 62 Main St. in Hatfield. Zephyr provides full-day, one-to-one ABA services to children with autism. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/TRISH CRAPO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/10/2021 12:47:32 PM

HATFIELD — After studying and working in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, Leyden native Liza Ashley is returning to the area to open an innovative, play-based clinic for children with autism ages 2 to 5.

Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare, Ashley’s new applied behavior analysis (ABA) clinic, has opened at 62 Main St. in Hatfield. Zephyr provides full-day, one-to-one ABA services to children with autism. Ashley, 27, said her passion for empowering children on the autism spectrum aligned with a need in the community, allowing her to return to western Massachusetts with her partner, Alex Marquez, who will serve as executive director.

“We’ve been told there is a lot of need in the area for this particular type of service, and we hope to grow organically with the need,” Ashley said.

Through following each child’s motivation and engaging with their interests, Ashley said the team at Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare is able to teach a wide range of skills, from communication and self-advocacy, to language foundations, self-care, sharing and taking turns, and more. Zephyr’s lead board-certified behavior analyst Megan Burton aims to make any activity a learning opportunity, developing a unique, play-based treatment plan for each client.

“At Zephyr, the name of the game is play,” Ashley said. “The clinic was designed with intention every step of the way, featuring themed play spaces that encourage exploration amidst a calm, natural backdrop.”

While Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare officially opened this month, Ashley said staff members are just starting to connect with local pediatricians and potential clients. Once in touch, families of potential young clients will work with Zephyr care coordinators to identify if they are a good fit for the offered programs.

Families who have children ages 2-5 with autism can schedule phone calls for consultation or discuss via email the services that Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare offers, Ashley said. After initial discussions, families will be invited to tour the center at 62 Main St. and learn about the intake process.

Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare may begin with 10 to 15 regular clients in its current space. Ashley is open to the idea of finding a second space and adjusting accordingly, once staff members have identified how many families may be looking for their services. Clients can come for a full- or half-day program, with the center enforcing its philosophies through play interactions.

“It’s a fun, stimulating environment with themed play areas,” Ashley explained. “A behavior therapist may see that a client has an interest in trains right now and ask, ‘What can I incorporate while playing with trains?’”

Each client will get a customized treatment plan based on their needs, Ashley said. This could range from potty training, to communication and play skills, or coping with periods of transition. Transitions are often difficult for people on the autism spectrum as they usually rely on routines to navigate social situations, and a sudden schedule or lifestyle change — such as beginning school, graduating or starting a new job — can be disruptive and discomforting. The goal at Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare, Ashley said, is to provide clients with the tools to succeed in other environments later in their lives.

Ashley graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a bachelor’s degree in human services and applied educational psychology in 2017. She went on to receive her master’s degree in education from Arizona State University in 2019, and has also been certified through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

Families can learn more about the health care center and its programs and services by visiting zephyrbehavioral.org or emailing info@zephyrbehavioral.org. Information can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/zephyrbehavioral.




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