If your child has autism spectrum disorder (or ASD), chances are that you’ve heard about applied behavior analysis or ABA therapy. ABA therapy is a science-backed discipline that studies behaviors to encourage desired outcomes while reducing harmful ones. Like with any other type of autism treatment, cost of ABA therapy depends on multiple factors. In this article, we’ll help guide you through the financial implications of ABA therapy and what you should keep in mind when looking for quality ABA therapy services for your child.
How ABA Therapy Works
ABA therapy is an evidence-based treatment for children with autism focused on the child’s unique needs. It is an intensive intervention that involves assessment of a child’s current functioning, abilities, and needs, as well as identification of treatment goals to help them reach a more independent and fulfilling life.
ABA services are typically offered in a one-to-one setting, overseen by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who completes thorough assessments of a child’s functioning. The BCBA then develops clinical treatment plans based on the parent’s inputs and assessment results.
A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) or behavior therapist then implements the treatment plan to help lessen a child’s problematic behaviors while teaching them new skills. Depending on a child’s needs, ABA therapy can address communication skills, social skills, independence and self-care skills, daily living skills, toilet training, better sleep habits, and much more.
What Could Affect the Cost of ABA Therapy?
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total costs per year for children with ASD in the United States were estimated to be between $11.5 billion – $60.9 billion (2011 US dollars). This significant economic burden represents a variety of direct and in-direct costs, from medical care to special education to lost parental productivity. [Read article]
Since no two people with autism are alike, neither will their intensity of services. This can have a significant impact on the cost of ABA therapy. Number of hours of ABA intervention that a child receives, whether commercial health insurance will cover the service, or will it be paid out of pocket – all have an impact on the final cost of ABA therapy.
Most insurance companies cover ABA therapy to some degree as these services are considered medically necessary. State-funded health insurance often covers the full amount of ABA therapy costs. If insurance doesn’t cover this health benefit, parents can reach out to an ABA provider to explore potential payment plans or other finance options.
ABA Therapy Funding Options
In addition to a child’s health insurance, many private insurances offer benefits to their members which could cover a portion of ABA therapy services.
State funding is another option for families who qualify for this benefit. States often have health insurance that covers a majority and sometimes all medically necessary services for the child.
Parents might also find scholarships available that are designed to help families who have a child with autism spectrum disorder.
Home and Center-Based Services
Applied behavior analysis can be provided in a client’s home or in a center setting. By attending an ABA center, a child is given the opportunity to learn in a fun and welcoming environment.
At an ABA center, the child will be able to interact with other children which will further help support their development and give them the chance to work on their social and communication skills. They could also practice playing with other children, taking turns, having conversations, and many other skills related to being with other kids and being part of a group. A child who attends an ABA center can practice routines like those they could experience in a real school setting which can help them develop the necessary skills to be more successful in school. A child can also have many new, enjoyable and helpful experiences, by carrying out new tasks and activities by attending an ABA center.
Another advantage of attending an ABA center is that the child will receive more oversight of their services by a BCBA to support their progress on treatment goals. Although home-based services can be a great option and certainly have their benefits, attending an ABA center has many advantages that can be helpful for children.
Finding the Right ABA Therapist
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to find the right ABA therapist.
To find the best therapist, there are a few things to consider:
- Does the ABA therapist have experience working with other children who have similar behaviors or learning concerns?
- Does the ABA service provider offer parent training services? This is important because parents should be involved in their child’s services. Parent training can provide an opportunity to stay informed about a child’s treatment and teach the parent effective behavior management strategies and ways to help the child learn new things.
- Does the ABA service provider have an easy and quick enrollment process? The enrollment process shouldn’t be difficult, stressful, or time-consuming.
Questions to Ask the ABA Provider
Some questions to ask when considering an ABA provider for a child:
- Is there a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) on staff who will be assigned to the child’s case?
- What does the BCBA do?
- What does the behavior therapist do?
- How often will the parent be able to talk to the BCBA?
- What might a typical ABA session look like for a child?
- How do the care team handle challenging behavior?
- What are the safety protocols? Are there measures in place to prevent spread of illnesses and to keep everyone physically safe?
- What is data collection and why is it important?
Accessing ABA Therapy for A Child with Autism
One of the main concerns parents have about ABA is how much it is going to cost. The good news is that there are options – from commercial insurance to state-funded services and scholarships, we have come a long way in being able to provide financial assistance for parents seeking ABA services.
When exploring whether a child should receive ABA therapy, remember that ABA therapy is a very effective intervention for children with autism. It can help them learn valuable life skills, improve their social and communication skills, and help them have fewer problem behaviors. Finding and partnering with an ABA therapist that is right for your child will help them become the best version of themselves.