Providing the missing link with ABA
Updated: Jun 13
Needs-based programs are important for people with autism. Am Badwall, a Clinical
Director at private school Missing Links Filling The Gap To Autism in Burlington, knew this from day one.
Missing Links is a preschool to eighth grade school designed for children on the autism spectrum, which Badwall founded in 2004. The school provides Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) instruction. Badwall mastered ABA before she opened the school.
“Back when I was involved with student learning in the mid-to-late 1990s, a friend told me about this therapy program named ABA for children with autism,” she says. “I went to a family’s house to watch a therapy session and I was so impressed by the level of instruction and things we could get out of students. After that, I got my first job as an ABA therapist. I kept learning as I had no prior experience with people with autism.”
Between then and opening Missing Links, Badwall got her Master’s degree in Applied Psychology and Human Development and her teaching degree.
Badwall was also a special education resource teacher before she opened Missing Links.
“When I tried training teachers and educational assistants on ABA, I knew right away that I wasn’t seeing the type of growth in students that I saw when doing private home ABA therapy because not all of them got it,” she says. “At this point, many parents told me, ‘Am,
you should open a private school which provides both ABA and the Ontario curriculum because you have a way of combining them to make it work’.”
At that point, Badwall decided to open up Missing Links.
“I came up with the name Missing Links because a parent of a child I did ABA with used to tell me, ‘Am, you provide that missing link between ABA and the normal curriculum,'” she says. “Back then, not many people were merging ABA with the regular curriculum.”
What Badwall especially enjoys about ABA is that therapists and teachers can measure through data how students are achieving their learning targets.
“ABA has a scientific backing on how to teach,” she says. “Once targets are being mastered, we can generalize them across different people and environments as we see gains. We use individualized behavioural plans to see if problematic behaviours go away and we make sure that student-staff ratios depend on the needs of the student. This can range from using bigger classrooms to one-on-one support.”
To this day, Badwall says that the ABA instruction involved with children at the school has proven to be successful.
“I’ve had people ask me to run workshops on how my methods work because other
professionals want to use them.”
Sam Malone, an Associate Director of Operations in ABA and education at Missing Links, who has worked at the school for six years, agrees that there has been much to celebrate.
“In offering a comprehensive program that targets behavioural issues, communication delays, social deficits and provincial-based education, we can create an environment that truly facilitates well-rounded development,” she says. “Parents, families, speech and language specialists, ABA professionals, clinical psychologists and doctors alike celebrate the phenomenal growth we see in our students.”
Malone has also been impressed with Badwall’s commitment to make Missing Links work.
“Am is and will forever be my mentor,” she says. “Every day is a new opportunity to learn from her, from developing targeted curriculums and programming specifics to creating a positive, wholehearted culture in the workplace.”
Badwall got her Ph.D. in autism and education a couple of years ago. With her Ph.D., she has used different teaching methods in the past year.
“It’s been hugely rewarding to create new programming based on the Ph.D. and for people to use my research.”
Badwall has made a huge difference in the lives of children with autism and continues to do so. From learning ABA to earning a Ph.D., she has come a long way to make a difference in the autism community.