Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare in Hatfield creating regional guide for autism resources

  • Founder Liza Ashley, a Leyden native, organizes toys in one of Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare’s learning spaces at the clinic, located at 62 Main St. in Hatfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2021 10:10:45 AM

HATFIELD — Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare, a new applied behavior analysis clinic for children with autism founded by a Leyden native, is creating a guide to local resources that help individuals with autism.

In conversations with families in western Massachusetts, Zephyr staff members have found that many smaller agencies that work with individuals with autism often go under the radar, according to Zephyr founder Liza Ashley.

“Families have noted that they have waited years to be able to receive services for their child in this area, and yet science shows that early intervention (receiving services before age 6), is key to increasing the level of independence of an adult with autism,” Ashley said. “The current state of access to services creates years of lost learning.”

Ashley, who opened Zephyr Behavioral Healthcare at 62 Main St. in Hatfield in February, said she is working to connect the local network of autism resource agencies “to better serve families and empower their ability to choose the provider that best meets their needs and aligns with their vision of support for their child.”

To do this, the team at Zephyr plans to create a regional guide to autism resources. The guide will include general information as well as a directory of local organizations and the services they provide. Agencies, pediatricians and diagnosticians who would like to be included in this guide can reach out via email to info@zephyrbehavioral.org.

Beyond connecting families to area agencies like Zephyr, Ashley said other resources will include lists of recreational activities or adaptive events hosted by area organizations for families with children who have autism. Additionally, the resource guide will include tips for identifying early signs of autism and guidance for how to advocate for a child with autism.

Receiving an autism diagnosis can be overwhelming for some families, Ashley said, adding that it can be hard to navigate the options for services and make decisions about what is best for their child. Following a diagnosis, families are often provided with a list of organizations to reach out to for support. But then the questions become, “Where do I begin?” “Will they call me back?” “How long is the waitlist?” “What do all these acronyms mean?”

Ashley and the staff members at Zephyr hope that, in addition to helping families, the resource guide will be useful to other local agencies that may receive inquiries for services outside of their scope, or when their waitlist for services is too long. The guide may also help doctors who are trying to point families in the right direction for services.

A draft of the resource webpage is “almost ready to go,” Ashley said. She hopes to have the resource guide go live on Zephyr’s website, zephyrbehavioral.org, by mid-October.

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