If your child has been diagnosed with autism, you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of new information you’re facing. Although autism is more understood today than at any point in the past, it can still present challenges and the need to spend time making changes together as a family.
To make the transition easier, many families facing a diagnosis of autism turn to applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy. This type of therapy can provide benefits that are life-changing for both parents and children.
A brief overview of ABA therapy
ABA therapy attempts to identify and analyze behaviors and provide alternatives to nurture and develop a child with autism. This approach accepts neurodivergence, but it also strives to help families find productive ways to allow for expression without encouraging potentially disruptive behaviors. Children are introduced to practical solutions that are based on real-world data and observations.
As an applied science, ABA therapy is focused on analyzing behavior as it relates to the child and the child’s environment. In doing this, the goal is to utilize existing science to shape behavior rather than speculate on how changes will affect an individual. This science-based approach sets ABA therapy apart from other forms of therapy, and many families find that their children benefit greatly from the applied science approach.
Sessions are often provided in-home to accelerate development and provide meaningful solutions in a comfortable, familiar environment. This approach also allows therapists to work directly with children and families in situations that they will face on a day-to-day basis.
How frequently are sessions held?
Like with any other type of therapy, the frequency of sessions is dependent upon the needs of the family. Some children are encouraged to take part in up to 40 hours per week for a period of time, but others may find that 10-20 hours per week yields greater benefits. Much like how autism is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis, care needs will vary from individual to individual.
The frequency of sessions may change over time as practical solutions are introduced and begin yielding results. During therapy, both you and your child will learn strategies and techniques to utilize.
How long is an average therapy session?
While your initial assessment may be shorter, most sessions last between 2-4 hours. The length of each session is determined by factors like progress toward the intended goal, input from family, and the overall needs of the child.
Two hours is usually the minimum standard, but because this type of therapy is personalized for each individual's needs, your schedule may be different. Your therapist will be happy to discuss your needs and provide options to ensure you and your child are able to get the most out of your time.
How much does ABA therapy cost?
According to Forbes, ABA therapy costs around $17,000 per year, without insurance coverage. But for some children, it may go as high as $45,000 to $100,000 per year. Therapy can span 20-40 hours per week and can continue for multiple years. Luckily, with insurance coverage, ABA therapy costs significantly less.
Variables that can affect your costs
While national averages offer a snapshot of the cost per hour or per year, your situation is unique to you and the needs of your family. To help you better plan for the cost of ABA therapy, below are some factors to consider:
- Therapy plan
- Your location
- Your insurance plan
- The amount of care needed
Insurance coverage of ABA therapy
Many private insurance providers offer coverage for autism therapy, but the amount of coverage and type of therapy covered e.g., in-home or center based will vary depending on your provider.
If you are covered, your plan may include a maximum amount of coverage per year after you have met your deductible. Some insurance providers offer a limited amount of fee-free therapy sessions, and your plan’s deductible may also be excluded from this process. You will want to contact your provider to learn more.
Paying for ABA therapy privately
You may also opt to pay privately through direct payments. This option may not be feasible for all families, but it can ensure that your child receives the therapy he or she needs.
If you plan to pay privately, let your therapist know this upfront. Some therapists will be able to provide discounted rates for clients who make direct payments, so this option may end up saving you money in the long run.
Health Savings Account (HSA) funds may also be eligible to pay for sessions. Your account manager can provide more information about the acceptable usage of HSA funds. Additionally, you will want to speak with your therapist about using HSA funds to ensure a smooth transaction.
Does medicare coverage apply? What about medicaid?
If you or your child receive medicare or medicaid, your sessions may be covered depending on a few factors. In order to be covered, your sessions need to be deemed medically necessary. Additionally, your therapist will need to be a medicare- or medicaid-participating provider.
What’s important to keep in mind is that, while medicare and medicaid are federal programs, they are administered at the state level. This means that each state may have different benefit options available to recipients. Ultimately, what receives coverage in one state may not receive coverage in another. This is why you’re encouraged to work with your plan manager to discuss your needs.
Your state may also provide coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This program is similar to medicaid in that it provides healthcare benefits based on state-approved plans; however, CHIP only covers eligible children whereas medicaid covers adults and dependents.
Is financial aid available?
You may also be able to take advantage of funding provided by states or you may be eligible for coverage of sessions based on state regulations. Some states offer grants to assist in paying for sessions.
As with other matters related to healthcare, each state is different, and what applies in one state may not apply in another. Additionally, funding from one state may not be transferable for care in another state.
You can learn more about grant programs by contacting your state’s health department, or you can take a look at a list of resources put together by the American Autism Association.
Embracing the value of ABA therapy
Despite the costs involved in ABA therapy, the benefits are invaluable for both children diagnosed with autism and their families. The goal of ABA therapy is to provide the tools necessary to live a happy, comfortable life.
Autism is no longer viewed as a disorder or something that holds people back. Instead, people who live with autism can go on to lead productive lives without letting their diagnosis get in the way. Through ABA therapy, children can develop strategies that can be applied to social development, personal growth, and greater self-esteem.
Contact us today to begin life-changing autism care in weeks, not months. To schedule a free consultation, click here now, or call (833) 940-2707.
Songbird therapy is a modern provider of in-home ABA therapy. Our approach puts children and families first for better results. Songbird's best-in-class therapists design care plans based on your child's strengths, interests, and goals to help your child succeed and grow.
- Karola Dillenburger & Mickey Keenan (2009) None of the As in ABA stand for autism: Dispelling the myths, Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 34:2, 193-195, DOI: 10.1080/13668250902845244
- Dixon, M.R., Paliliunas, D., Barron, B.F. et al. (2019) Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluation of ABA Content on IQ Gains in Children with Autism. / Behav Educ30, 455–477. DOI: 10.1007/s10864-019-09344-7