As parents, it’s natural to seek the best possible care and support for your child with Autism. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a leading and evidence-based intervention for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Its effectiveness in promoting positive behaviors and reducing challenging ones has made it a cornerstone of Autism treatment.
In this blog article, we’ll uncover 10 essential facts that every parent should know about ABA therapy. Whether you’re just beginning to explore treatment options or you’ve already heard about ABA therapy and want to learn more, this comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights and help you make informed decisions.
1 – The Importance of Early Intervention with ABA Therapy
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports early intervention, recommending that children with Autism receive early intensive behavioral intervention, such as ABA therapy, as soon as they are diagnosed. Most children are diagnosed with Autism around the age of 4, though it can be diagnosed as early as 2 years old. At Westside, we provide ABA therapy to children of all ages, from 2-17.
One of the reasons that early intervention is so important is that the brain has its highest plasticity in early childhood. The brain has a remarkable capacity to adapt and reorganize itself, especially during the early years of life. This period of heightened neuroplasticity presents a unique opportunity to create new neural connections in areas where a child may be struggling, such as in communication.
ABA therapy is designed to address the core deficits associated with Autism, such as communication challenges, social interaction difficulties, and repetitive behaviors. By intervening early, ABA therapy can specifically target these areas, helping children acquire essential skills and bridge developmental gaps.
2 – ABA Therapy Emphasizes Parent Training
Parental involvement and collaboration are a huge part of ABA therapy. It’s important for parents and other caregivers to learn the skills and strategies to effectively support their child’s learning, behavior management, and overall development. Many parents are unfamiliar with the complexities of Autism until their child receives a diagnosis, and may find that parenting strategies that worked with their other children, or that they hear about from their friends, simply don’t work with their child with Autism.
Parent collaboration is an essential part of ABA therapy at Westside. During parent collaboration meetings, parents gain an understanding of the goals their child is working on as well as collaborate with the child’s BCBA about additional goals they would like targeted. These goals can be in a variety of areas, such as functional communication, daily living skills, and safety awareness. Additionally, parent collaboration meetings go over the child’s behaviors in the clinic, home, and community settings. These sessions serve as valuable opportunities to strategize and develop effective approaches aimed at promoting positive behaviors and mitigating negative behaviors.
3 – ABA Therapy is Different for Every Child
Every child with Autism presents a different set of strengths, needs, and challenges. Therefore, ABA emphasizes individualized treatment plans. It is important to recognize that there is no universal approach that fits every child’s needs. Even among children who may face similar challenges, their responses to various therapeutic techniques can vary significantly.
At Westside, each child receives an individual care plan following their evaluation. This plan consists of a variety of goals tailored to meet the child’s most pressing needs and challenges. Progress is regularly recorded throughout therapy, and as goals are mastered, new goals are added. This way, the child is continually leveling up their skills (and having fun along the way!).
4 – ABA Emphasizes Positive Reinforcement
ABA therapy places a strong emphasis on positive reinforcement as a primary approach to behavior change.
Modern ABA therapy is all about an ethical and child-centered approach. It promotes a supportive and nurturing environment, focusing on the child’s strengths and abilities and on their emotional well-being.
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for skill acquisition. ABA therapy incorporates positive reinforcement techniques to teach and reinforce new skills across various domains, such as communication, social interaction, self-care, and academic abilities. By rewarding small steps and gradual progress, children are motivated to continue learning and developing their skills.
5 – ABA Therapy Hours Vary by Child
Because ABA therapy is always individualized based on the child’s unique needs, the intensity of ABA therapy will vary by child. The intensity of ABA therapy refers to the frequency and duration of therapy sessions. Intensive ABA programs typically involve more hours per week, reaching up to 25-40 hours. The determination of therapy hours is made by the Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) based on your child’s individual needs.
The goal is to provide the appropriate amount of therapy without over or undeserving the child. Regular data collection allows the therapist to closely monitor progress and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan, ensuring that the hours allocated align with your child’s evolving requirements.
6 – ABA Therapy In Clinic vs In Home
Research shows Autistic children achieved 200% more learning per hour during clinic-based services relative to home-based ABA therapy services.
While home-based ABA therapy is certainly convenient for many families, clinic-based services allow for the child and their BCBA access to more materials, therapists, and opportunities for socialization with other children. Westside offers clinic-based ABA therapy to maximize outcomes.
7 – ABA Therapy Can Be In Group Settings
While ABA therapy is always individualized, it can also be conducted within a group setting. This allows children opportunities for socialization, and to learn school-readiness skills such as sitting in a group, taking turns, and playing with others.
Westside offers several ABA therapeutic groups for various age groups and skill levels. Though conducted in a group setting, each child still has individual goals. Our IGNITE and RISE groups focus on school-readiness skills, while our FOCUS group is an after-school program for children who seek additional support.
Most importantly, our therapeutic groups are FUN! We incorporate games, collaborative activities, and lots of play. They are a great way to build social skills while still working on each child’s individual goals.
8 – ABA Therapy Can Be Effective For Managing ADHD
If your child with Autism also has ADHD, ABA therapy can be effective in treating the symptoms of both. Up to 50% of children with Autism also meet the criteria for ADHD. And while these conditions are separate, many of the symptoms overlap.
Studies have demonstrated that ABA therapy can improve the main symptoms of ADHD, namely inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It also contributes to the improvement of communication and social skills in children with ADHD.
In fact, ABA principles have been applied to various populations, including individuals with intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and even individuals without specific diagnoses.
9 – ABA Therapy is Covered by Health Insurance in Illinois
In Illinois, Public Law 095-1005 requires insurance companies to provide meaningful coverage for Autism care. This coverage applies to State Employee Health Plans, Individual Plans, and Fully Insured Large and Small Group Plans. The services covered include diagnostic as well as rehabilitative care, which includes Applied Behavior Analysis.
This does not mean that ABA therapy is free, but that most insurance plans are required to provide meaningful coverage. Cost will vary based on insurance plan, number of therapy hours, and other factors, such as if your ABA provider accepts your insurance plan. At Westside, if your insurance is in our network, the average out-of-pocket cost is $1,500 to $3,000 per year. Of course, this varies based on your specific insurance benefits, deductibles, out of pockets, copays, etc.
10 – ABA Therapy Has Changed Over the Years
Over the years, ABA therapy has evolved significantly, adapting and refining its approaches to better serve individuals with Autism.
One of the notable changes in ABA therapy is the shift towards a more individualized and person-centered approach. Earlier practices often focused on eliminating specific behaviors, while modern ABA therapy emphasizes respect for the child’s preferences, empathy, and personalized interventions.
Another significant change is the recognition of the importance of generalization and natural environment training. ABA therapists now strive to help individuals generalize skills learned in therapy to real-life situations, promoting greater independence and success in everyday life.
Westside believes in fun and engaging interactions, positive and empowering relationships, a child-centered approach, and the importance of learning within the natural environment. We believe in following the child’s communicative intent, teaching through empathy, and ensuring that all therapy provided is televisable – meaning that anyone watching a session would be happy and comfortable with what they see. We let the child know, “I see you, I hear you, I am here for you.”
If you are interested in learning more about ABA therapy at Westside, please click the link below or call us at (815) 469-1500, and our team will walk you through the process.