How to get ABA Therapy for your Child

How to get ABA Therapy for your Child

The number of parents seeking ABA therapy for their children has exploded in the last decade. As such, the number of ABA professionals out there has increased as well. An ABA practitioner or consultant may be someone who works independently or may be someone who works for an agency. Either way, it’s is best to choose someone who is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). The BCBA credential assures you that the person has undergone specific training and supervision by other behavior analysts, has completed ABA coursework, and has a Master’s degree in a human service area. It is also important to make sure the practitioner you choose has experience working with children similar to your child. So if your child is 4 years old with a diagnosis of autism, it is important to find someone who has worked with young children with autism.

There are many ways to go about receiving ABA therapy for your child. You need to figure out what your preferences are (school/center-based or home-based; agency or independent practitioner) and then look at your options for funding. In general, there are four ways to get ABA. You can request ABA therapy from your regional center or a state agency that serves individuals with disabilities, school district, or health insurance provider. These organizations will refer you to individual practitioners or agencies and will pay part or all of the costs of the ABA program. You can also contact a practitioner/agency and pay privately, but this route is not for the faint of heart. Most people find funding their own ABA program to be very costly, and very time consuming. However, for some that may be the only option. We will discuss funding your own ABA program later in this article.

Until just recently, many families receiving ABA therapy were getting it funded by state agencies, school districts, or paying out of pocket. Only a few had it covered under insurance. Now that many states are close to bankruptcy, state agencies and school districts probably won’t continue funding ABA for much longer. The good news is that, due to recent legislative insurance reform, more families will get ABA therapy covered by their insurance provider! Ten years ago, none of the 50 states were mandating insurance to cover therapy for children with autism. A few years ago it was just a handful. But now over 30 states require some insurance providers to cover behavioral interventions for children with autism and related disorders! Hopefully this trend will continue…

So if you want ABA for your child, the first thing you should do is find out if your health insurance provider covers ABA therapy. (Keep in mind that “behavioral interventions” may not necessarily mean ABA.) If so, they will give you a list of providers. You would then contact one of the providers and go through the intake and assessment process, which would lead to an individualized ABA program for your child.

If ABA is not covered under your insurance, check with your school district. Many school districts have school-based ABA programs for children with autism. School-based programs, however, are usually not as intensive as home-based programs. It is your right to have appropriate services provided for your child under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), so if you do not think your child is benefitting from the intervention that his school is providing, speak up! At your child’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) meeting you can request a home-based ABA program. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get the school district to fund the program (there is a budget crisis, after all) and most parents find they need a lawyer or advocate.

Another option is to contact your local public agency or regional center. These are state funded entities that offer services such as ABA therapy and “early intervention” programs. The policies and services offered vary state by state, but according to federal law, public agencies are required to provide services for children with developmental delays. Call your local public agency and find out if they offer ABA services.

For more info about your ABA options, do a quick internet search. Simply typing in “ABA therapy in ____ (your state or city)” should point you in the right direction. Depending on where you live, you may have many options for securing ABA, or unfortunately you may live in an area where ABA is not easily accessible.

Privately funding your ABA Program

ABA therapy is very costly, but some parents fund it themselves because they are either not satisfied with the providers they are given or they are unable to get it funded by insurance or state agencies. As a starting point, the physician who diagnosed your child may be able to provide you with a list of agencies or individuals that provide ABA services. You can also search the internet for ABA specialists near you. Check out the official website for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (bacb.com). Here you can search for behavior analysts by last name, zip code, city, state or country. At bacb.com you can also review the list of training and educational requirements of a BCBA.

Some questions to consider when hiring a BCBA:

How much training do you have? What age groups have you worked with?

Why do you do this job?

How can you help my child?

How flexible are you? (It is important to find a provider who will listen to your concerns and be willing to tailor the ABA program to your child’s unique situation.)

How will progress be monitored and reported?

Will my questions and concerns be addressed promptly and thoroughly?

Will you train me to implement ABA strategies?

Do you provide therapists or do we have to find them and hire them ourselves? (Usually, BCBAs will design and supervise an ABA program, but assistants, also called therapists or behavior interventionists, actually carry out the day to day ABA program.)

 

It is also recommended that you educate yourself. Read up on autism and/or other developmental disabilities, and ABA therapy. Also, connect with other people who are going through the same thing. Search the internet for local autism support groups.

ABA is considered the gold standard for intervention for children with autism. ABA has been shown to dramatically reduce long-term costs for most individuals diagnosed with ASD, and to significantly improve their quality of life. Even parents who must pay out of pocket for their child’s therapy usually agree that the long-term benefits of ABA outweigh the costs of paying for an in-home ABA program. If you are unable to secure funding from your state or insurance company, find out if your child qualifies for any grants, scholarships, or waivers. If all else fails consider private pay. If private pay is not an option under any circumstances, look into workshops, online training courses, and books designed to teach parents the basics of ABA therapy. You can be your child’s ABA therapist. It may not be ideal, but it’s much better than doing nothing.

Some helpful websites:

Autism Society of America

http://www.autism-society.org

 

Autism Speaks

http://www.autismspeaks.org/

 

Little Leaves ABA funding guide

http://www.littleleaves.org/images/ABAFundingGuide5_2011Dev_v2.pdf

 

TACA (Talk About Curing Autism Now) http://www.talkaboutcuringautism.org/resources/autism-insurance/insurance-coverage-for-biomedical-traditional-treatments.htm