Cost of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy programs can be provided by private companies and through government contracted agencies.  They can be small local agencies or large regional or national groups. Moreover, they can be provided by consultants and therapists in separate packages. And ABA programs can even be provided through your local school district in many cases.

Usually, several tutors, a senior tutor/supervisor and a consultant/case manager form a team to work with an autistic child. The consultant/case manager will normally be a Certified Applied Behavior Analyst and will be responsible for designing the child’s treatment program. Although tutors are not usually certified in ABA, they are trained by the service provider and are highly monitored.  Family members usually do 2 or 3 sessions per week. Many families prefer to hire tutors that are family members, or volunteers, such as from local church groups. And many families hire tutors through universities, or by placing ads. 

In general, ABA programs involve:

  • Evaluating the skills and difficulties of the child
  • Determining the goals and objectives, for example, learning how to say ‘hello’
  • Assessing how often a behavior takes place
  • Planning and implementing a program that teaches the required behavior
  • Continuous measurement of the required skill to check whether the program is effective
  • Continuous enhancement of the program, and making corrective actions when needed

The way these components will be applied by the program differs from one child to another based on factors such as the child’s particular condition in the autism spectrum and the child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. An ABA therapy program can be applied in the family’s home, a clinic, the child’s school or a combination of settings.  In most cases behavioral intervention programs begin in the home and are applied to other environments as the child progresses.

Unfortunately, these programs can be very costly, and may not be adopted by many school systems. Numerous parents search for funding and staffing from other sources, which can be difficult to allocate in various communities.  

Hours needed

Most ABA therapy practitioners use the Lovaas Method developed at UCLA by Dr. Ivar Lovaas because of its documented effectiveness in studies. (Lovaas, 1987)  However, those studies showed the highest effectiveness when at least 30 to 40 hours of tutoring per week was provided in about 2 or 3 hour sessions. Some families use standard ABA therapy 5 days a week, and work with the child on the general skills in the home on weekends.   

Cost considerations

The cost of an ABA program mainly depends on the form of the program, the way it’s structured, and the services that it provides. Families can minimize costs by applying some of the activities that are involved in the therapy themselves. Moreover, they can search for volunteers for support and borrow materials from toy libraries or autism associations to reduce costs. Most families go to their school district or to local or state agencies for services or funding.

ABA specialized schools

Children can be involved in schools that are specialized in ABA treatment. Most major cities and university towns typically have such schools. However, the cost of these schools is quite expensive, as the tuition fees may range between $16,000 and $25,000 a year. Parents in need may be offered scholarships by some schools.

Home Therapy

ABA therapy can take place at home using therapists in training, or undergraduates that have taken workshop in the ABA program. This might be expensive (typically ranging from $5000 to $20,000 a year) and it may require time prom the parents to organize time and structure the program, but it is far less than the $50,000 or more per year that a full-time professional ABA therapy team usually costs.

References:

Lovaas, I. O. (1987). "Behavioral Treatment and Normal Educational and Intellectual Functioning in Young Autistic Children". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , 3-9.

http://www.jeena.org/autism/ABA.htm

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/applied_behaviour_analysis_th.html

http://www.peach.org.uk/FAQs/ABAAppliedBehaviourAnalysis

http://autism.healingthresholds.com/therapy/applied-behavior-analysis-aba

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