Boy in ABA therapy session

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a common type of therapy for people with autism. We know that parents can have a lot of questions about ABA therapy before they feel comfortable making an informed decision.

Therefore, we’ve put together this guide explaining what is ABA therapy for autism. This is based on the questions that parents ask us on a regular basis here at Golden Care Therapy.

What is the purpose of ABA therapy? 

Applied behavior analysis therapy focuses on improving specific behaviors and skills in people with autism. Some of these behaviors include:

  • Social skills
  • Communication
  • Reading, studying and academics
  • Fine motor dexterity 
  • Hygiene and grooming
  • Domestic activities

How does it work?

ABA treatment is based on proven scientific theories from the behavior field of psychology, such as operant conditioning and Antecedent-Behavior-Consequences (ABC). Essentially, ABA seeks to encourage desired behavior through a system of rewards and consequences.

Here’s how it works in practice:

  • An ABA therapist identifies a needed skill
  • As the child engages in the desired skill or appropriate behavior they gain access to reinforcing items.
  • Over time, these rewards encourage the child to continue engaging in the targeted skills   

Where do therapy sessions take place?

Session locations will depend on the therapy provider and your requirements. They can take place in the home, at daycares or within therapy centers. Here at Golden Care Therapy, we specialize in in-home and community ABA therapy, as well as social skills groups.

what’s the recommended amount of aba therapy?

There is no recommended amount of ABA therapy. However, weekly therapy typically ranges from 10 to 20 hours.  

Who provides ABA therapy and what training do they have?

ABA therapy services must be provided by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). A BCBA is not a physician, however the training and qualifications requirements are vigorous and include:

  • A masters or PhD in psychology or behavior analysis or education.
  • Passing a national certification exam
  • Seeking a state license (in certain states)

The BCBA writes each treatment plan and then works with Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) or behavior technicians, who deliver the therapy. 

What’s an ABA treatment plan and how does it work?

You will hear the term “treatment plan” used a lot in applied behaviour analysis therapy. A treatment plan is a written document that lays out structure of your child’s ABA treatment.

BCBAs use interviews, assessments and observations to create individual treatment plans. This is a collaborative process which parents are involved with throughout.

The treatment plan with contain specific treatment goals. Your child’s ABA therapy will then be based around these treatment goals. To ensure that everyone involved with your child’s development is on the same page, it will also contain strategies for parents, caregivers and teachers. The plan is then  regularly monitored and updated as progress is made.

On a more practical point, insurers usually require a treatment plan before coverage can be confirmed.

DOES my health insurance Provide cover?

The short answer is yes. However, the specifics of insurance coverage depends on a few factors. 

Firstly, you need to check what type of benefit plan you have. This will determine what protections are in place at either the state or federal level:

  • Fully insured plans (or otherwise state regulated plans): These plans are regulated by state law and all 50 states have taken action to require coverage for ABA therapy. Here’s a complete list of autism coverage by state.
  • Self funded plans: These plans are regulated by federal law. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act prohibits insurers from imposing more restrictions on mental health treatments compared to other medical and surgical treatments. Therefore, insurers can’t place limitations on ASD therapies, if no such limitations exist for the treatment or other medical conditions. 

Once you’ve determined what type of benefit plan you have, you can check your state coverage (if on a fully insured plan), then talk to your insurer to confirm coverage. If you live in New Jersey, you can also read our detailed guide to autism insurance coverage in NJ.

What’s the science behind ABA therapy?

Both the US Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association consider applied behavior analysis therapy to be an evidence-based best practice treatment. 

Over 20 studies have proven that ABA therapy delivered for between 1 to 3 years, improves outcomes for many children with autism. These improved outcomes include intellectual functioning, language development and social functioning.

Want to find out more about?

We hope that this blog post has helped to answer some of the questions you have around what is ABA therapy for autism. 

Our blog section provides lots of resources for parents of children with autism, including other information on ABA therapy. The blog also contains other practical advice articles for parents.

If you live in New Jersey and would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

Estee Rothstein BCBA, Executive Director at Golden Care Therapy

Estee Rothstein BCBA, Executive Director at Golden Care Therapy

Estee Rothstein is the Executive Director of Golden Care Therapy. She is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a master’s degree in Education. A proud mom of six, Estee brings her unique parenting perspective to her long career working with children with autism that spans more than 20 years. Outside of running her business, Estee also provides advice and consultancy to other professionals working in the field, and is a frequent speaker and writer on a range of autism topics.