When you think about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for your child, you may wonder how long your child will need ABA therapy. There is no standard timeframe for children with autism to receive ABA therapy because it depends upon many factors. These include their skill level, the pace at which they achieve goals, and the parents’ decisions about their child’s path.
Understanding Your Treatment Plan/Discharge Plan
The first thing the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will do when your child starts ABA therapy is to complete an assessment, usually the Verbal Behavior Milestone Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), which assesses 16 skill areas.
The BCBA will develop goals based upon the results of the assessment and those goals will be transformed into a treatment plan, which the BCBA will send to the parents for approval. Insurance companies require that each treatment plan also include a discharge plan. While it may seem early to discuss discharge when your child is just starting therapy, the discharge plan helps parents think about what they would like for their child to achieve while they are receiving ABA therapy.
Does My Child Stop ABA When They Start School?
Parents may think that their child must be finished with ABA therapy by the time they are required to attend school. However, attaining school age in Texas does not mean that a child must end ABA therapy.
Public School and ABA Therapy
In Texas, children are required to attend school when they are six years old on September 1 of the school year. However, Texas law also allows children to leave school for therapy appointments, including ABA therapy, for all or part of school days. This will enable children to attend both school and ABA therapy each week. The hours of each are up to the parents, in consultation with the BCBA, and school administration.
Homeschooling and ABA Therapy
Parents may also consider continuing ABA and homeschooling their children. Homeschool is considered a private school for compulsory attendance purposes in Texas. There are no required qualifications for the instructor and no minimum number of hours of instruction required.
Texas requires that there is instruction; that the curriculum is visual, such as textbooks, workbooks, and online programs; and that reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and citizenship be taught. Texas does not require written proof of homeschooling but may ask a parent to affirm that those subjects are being taught.
Other Factors That May Affect Ending ABA Therapy
Some ABA providers have mandatory “graduation” dates, but ending every child’s ABA therapy when they reach a certain age is arbitrary. Just because a child is required by their ABA provider to “graduate” at a specific age does not mean that each child has made the gains they should or could make before ending ABA therapy.
Insurance companies may also try to convince BCBAs to accept fewer hours than they have requested for clients as the clients get older. This process is called “titration” of hours and the goal is to progressively reduce therapy session hours until the client no longer receives services. However, ABA providers continue to push back on this practice and request that the insurance companies approve the hours of ABA that the BCBAs believe are necessary for their clients.
Putting It All Together: Deciding When to Stop ABA Therapy for Your Child
In Texas, children may attend both ABA and either typical school or homeschool so starting school does not mean that ABA services must end. “Graduation” of children from ABA by some providers is arbitrary and does not mean that the child has made all the progress they could make with ABA. It may just mean that the parents need to find another ABA provider.
Finally, insurance companies may try to reduce ABA therapy hours for children as they get older, but that does not mean the therapy is unnecessary. The attempts by insurance companies to reduce hours are subject to challenge.
In the end, deciding when your child should no longer receive ABA therapy is the decision of the parents, in consultation with the BCBA, taking into consideration the child’s initial skill levels and goals as well as the progress the child has made towards those goals during their time in ABA therapy. Individuals with autism will have different skill levels, so the goals for each child will differ, their rates of progress will differ and, as a result, when they end ABA therapy will also differ.
At Steps to Progress, how long ABA therapy lasts is tailored to your child and their specific needs. Our ABA therapists take the time to understand your goals, regardless of how many hours per week that takes. Learn how to get started by calling our office at 713-782-1330 or filling out an information form.