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Applied Behavior Analysis

Increasing Social & Early Language Skills for Children Living with Autism

Writer / Renée Larr
Photographer Walker Photography

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is often considered the gold standard in treatment for children living with autism. The therapeutic approach applies our understanding of how behavior works to real-life, everyday situations. The goal is to increase helpful behaviors and decrease harmful behaviors."</p

Board Certified Behavior Analyst Shaya Bates founded Link to Learn in 2018, trying to recapture the environment of a small ABA center where she worked when she started her career as a therapist. Link to Learn provides individual and small group ABA therapy for children with autism and early learning preschool. Bates says early learning preschool is a classroom experience focusing on play and exploratory learning. The curriculum increases social skills and early language skills through interactive activities.

“ABA therapy is extremely effective for learners on the autism spectrum,” Bates says. “We do that through intensive teaching, breaking down skills into smaller chunks and then building those skills back up. The one-on-one treatment is wonderful for building language skills and reducing problematic behavior. We focus on the child’s motivators and use that to teach them other skills. We also base our decisions about what we are teaching on the data we collect during each session. ABA is very practical and scientific at the same time.”

Bates says small group ABA therapy is geared toward learners transitioning to a community-based or classroom environment. She says many social nuances are involved in a school setting.

“We focus on interaction,” Bates says. “It’s important to us that the kids interact with other and learn from each other. We do small group settings throughout the day to ensure they’re getting social interaction.”


Bates says one thing that sets her therapy center apart is its flexibility in working with families with complex schedules. She says allowing for flexible scheduling helps parents meet the needs of their children. She also says Link to Learn is more of a mom-and-pop type feel in the therapeutic setting.

“We’re clinician owned, and I’m very proud as a therapist that I own my clinic,” Bates says. “I’ve been working in the ABA field since 2007, and the quality of our services reflects my experience.”

She says she provides her staff with in-house training to ensure they receive the proper certifications. She says she’s currently hiring and allows flexibility to students in their work schedules.

“My staff is so great, and they’re very high energy,” Bates says. “Some are in school for occupational therapy, speech therapy and behavioral analysis. We know school is demanding, so we are flexible with their needs.”

Bates says she is working on adding additional programming, such as social skills groups. Link to Learn is located at 14701 Cumberland Rd Suite 200 and offers services from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit linkedbehavior.com."</p

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