Three-year-old in ABA therapy

At what age should a child with autism start ABA Therapy?

This is a question frequently asked by parents who want to provide the best possible care for their child. Early intervention is key when it comes to treating autism, and the same holds true for ABA therapy. Research has shown that starting Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy as early as possible can have life-changing benefits for many children with autism.

What is ABA Therapy? 

ABA Therapy is the only scientifically proven method for treating ASD, and it is designed to teach children valuable, socially significant skills. By intervening early, therapists can work on key developmental skills to set children up for success, teaching them skills that can help them grow and succeed in school, community, and other social environments.

At Westside Children’s Therapy, we recommend that children with autism begin ABA therapy services as early as possible, preferably before the age of five. Children can begin ABA therapy services as early as 18-30 months, but it is best to start services right after a formal diagnosis of autism is given. A formal diagnosis of autism is also required to have ABA therapy covered by insurance in Illinois.

ABA Therapy is almost always play-based and follows the child’s motivation to dictate how their therapy program will be implemented. Though there are structured work times and group play that is incorporated to help address different skill building. One-on-one attention allows therapists to structure each therapy program to meet the needs of a specific child.

When a child is in ABA Therapy, they can participate in IGNITE, our preschool prep program for children with autism. This program runs in conjunction with typical ABA Therapy sessions and supports children to gain and retain skills that will help them succeed in a typical school setting.

It is common for children with autism to struggle with a variety of tasks or exhibit behaviors that would not be accepted in a classroom setting, or may interfere with their ability to learn. Some behaviors or challenges that a child with autism may have include tolerance skills, following a routine of a class, attending to teachers and adults, sitting next to their peers, and properly communicating their wants and needs effectively (screaming, crying, physical aggression, etc.).

In therapy, we can work with the child early on in gaining essential skills such as communication, social skills, play skills, and tolerance skills among other important domains. That way children do not have to use challenging behaviors to communicate wants, needs, and frustrations.

Child reading after a full year of ABA

Why is it important to recognize these challenges a child may have early on?

Because the earlier the child with autism can begin ABA Therapy, the better chance our therapists can provide children with the skills they need to succeed. If a child spends more time turning to tantrum behaviors, physical aggression, or is unable to follow directions, the harder it may be to break those habits. It is easier to address those challenges if they are not in the child’s repertoire.

For example, we may help a 2-year-old child gesture to what they want/need by pointing to it to replace crying or screaming in order to get their needs met.

ABA Therapy at Westside is always 1-on-1, allowing children and their therapists to build a trusting relationship while learning likes and dislikes to make therapy exciting and help them reach their goals. ABA Therapy can also be adjusted to any level of ability.

Two therapists at Westside in the very early stages of ABA therapy

At Westside Children’s Therapy, we offer two other ABA Therapy programs for children for continued support once they graduate. RISE is a program for children typically 5-7 years old and is run at the same time as IGNITE, but is for more advanced learners; and FOCUS is an afterschool program for older children looking for continued support.

The ultimate goal for every child that starts ABA Therapy young is to fade out services at an older age and prepare them with school-readiness skills to take on learning.

In conclusion, early intervention is key when it comes to treating autism with ABA therapy. By starting ABA therapy services as early as possible, children with autism can receive the tools and skills they need to succeed in school, community, and other social environments. At Westside Children’s Therapy, we offer ABA therapy services that can be adjusted to any level of ability, ensuring that children with autism receive the care they need to reach their full potential.

For further information, read our previous blog “When to stop ABA Therapy” to know when it’s time to transition out of ABA.

If you are interested in starting ABA Therapy at Westside Children’s Therapy, click the “Get Started” tab below or call (815) 469-1500