If you’re the parent of a child who has recently been diagnosed with autism, ensuring he/she receives the best support is likely to be at the top of your agenda.
ABA therapy, otherwise known as Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, monitors behavioral changes to identify whether a child’s social development and communication skills are progressing while implementing the right steps to ensure that struggling individuals can get back on track.
ABA therapy is a long-standing treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and can be used in a wide range of settings, including home based and in the classroom.
However, with some children requiring up to 40 hours of ABA therapy every week in order to unlock its full potential, paying for it can be a scary prospect. The key is to enter the process with transparency. This guide should provide all you need to know.
How much does ABA therapy cost per year?
When you complete the most basic research into the cost of ABA therapy in the U.S., the figure of $120 per hour with a board-certified ABA therapist is likely to scare you.
After all, simple maths shows that even a few hours each week could cost you dearly:
- 10 hours per week x $120 = $1,200 per week or $62,400 per year
- 20 hours per week x $120 = $2,400 per week or $124,800 per year
- 40 hours per week x $120 = $4,800 per week or $249,600 per year
Quite frankly, those figures make therapy a challenge for many families. Some families might not be able to afford enough hours each week for an ABA therapist to build a rapport or fully analyze their child’s behavioral changes. So, does that mean you should give up? Not at all…
There are many contributing factors that can influence the overall expense of ABA therapy. Some of the most telling aspects are;
- The severity of autism experienced by the individual child
- Geographic location, as well as the supply and demand of ABA therapists
- How many hours are required every week (the good news is that 10-20 is usually more than enough)
- The individual ABA therapist’s experience levels and desired rates
- Length of time (in months or years) spent with the ABA specialist
- Where the ABA therapy will take place
Even the above features show that the situation isn’t quite as daunting as it seems at the first glance. In truth, the calculation of multiplying the hours per month by $120 is unlikely to be accurate and your overall bill will be far smaller.
Meanwhile, parents that cannot afford board-certified ABA therapist may look for help from other pediatric caregivers. However, aside from the fact it could compromise the level of support, it may also exclude you from some of the alternative funding methods. And, as we’re about to find out, there are plenty.
What are the different ways to approach and fund ABA therapy?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children with autism can need anywhere between $17,000 and $21,000 per year in extra care compared to neurotypical kids. This covers medical appointments and other additional care, as well as therapies like ABA. It is far too much money for most families to find, which is something the authorities do tend to appreciate.
Given that a lot of children (around 1 in 50 eight-year-olds, for example) fall onto the spectrum, it is an area of care where funding support is available. The most common alternatives are;
- State-funded ABA therapy funding
- ABA therapy covered by insurance firms
- School-funded ABA therapy
- Scholarships and ABA financial assistance
- ABA therapy through Private Payment
State-funded ABA therapy funding
State-funded ABA therapy is commonly viewed as something of a last resort when the alternatives are not available. Many states offer a solution of some sort. Nevertheless, the contrast in support offered from one geographic territory to the next is an issue that frustrates many parents.
The process can cover the cost of ABA therapy while also providing parents with valuable materials needed to further support their child. Some of the best states are;
- California – offers grants to offset treatment costs with no age limit or maximum therapy cost
- Colorado – requires insurers to cover the full ABA therapy costs, with no age limit
- Indiana – offers grants to offset treatment costs with no age limit or maximum therapy cost
- New Jersey – offers various grants to offset ABA therapy costs for children up to the age of 21
- New York – covers up to $45,000 in ABA therapy costs for autistic individuals of any age
- Vermont – covers children up to the age of 21 with no limit on cost or session frequency
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ABA therapy covered by insurance companies
Insurance-covered ABA therapy is a very common solution, not least because insurance companies are mandated to cover autism treatment in several states.
When you use insurance coverage, you will only be required to pay the agreed deductible. So, if your contract has a $50 deductible, you’ll need to pay this amount for each session. However if your child received four sessions of three hours each week, the $200 fee is far more affordable than covering the costs from your pocket.
Over a year, though, this equates to $10,000 even if your child receives a two-week break from the sessions. Many state schemes will cover these costs too, though. So, you’ll either gain a highly discounted solution or an entirely free level of care.
School-funded ABA therapy
School-funded ABA therapy may come directly from your child’s school itself or courtesy of the school district. In either case, the authorities may wish to run assessments first to find out what you may require. Following approval, though, your child’s therapy costs will be 100% covered.
The ABA therapists used in these situations could be agency staff or hired directly by the district to serve schools in the area. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst will provide supervision while developments will be reported via the school’s Individualized Education Plan.
Scholarships and ABA financial assistance
Financial centers may offer scholarships and other financial assistance packages for children needing ABA therapy.
The exact details of the programs will depend on the individual financial center and their criteria, but applicants can expect to gain significant support. Scholarships will ensure your child receives ABA funding for the appropriate duration to aid their academic development.
Other financial support won’t always cover the full costs, but it should cushion the blow of paying 100% of the fees out of pocket.
ABA therapy through Private Payment
Private Payment for ABA therapy is linked to employers and work organizations, who will use the child’s trust to cover a partial payment for the sake of your child’s educational purposes.
The exact level of care will be determined by the organization’s trust details, as well as your family household income. Meanwhile, the funding gained through this method sometimes uses a sliding scale, which is something you’ll need to investigate.
While this model won’t cover the full cost of ABA therapy, it does bring the hourly rate down to as little as $20 depending on individual circumstances, thus reducing the costs by over 80% compared to what you first feared.
Is ABA therapy worth the expense?
Successful ABA therapy with a professional therapist can help children on the autism spectrum grow emotionally and socially through a range of communication skills. While the strategies (and therefore results) will vary from child to child, the most common improvements seen in clients are;
- Increased focus when studying
- Improved connections with friends and family
- Fewer tantrums and reduced self-harm behaviors
- More effective communication with strangers
- Asking for items clearly
Essentially, then, ABA therapy is shown to promote improved behavior, social skills, and quality of life for the patient. Quite frankly, if those rewards are achieved, they are priceless for any parent to see.
Furthermore, while the therapy isn’t cheap, it should be noted that it doesn’t last forever. Most kids are treated for a maximum of three years while many are discharged even earlier.
When coupled with the fact it could save you money on other treatments or investments used to make life a little more comfortable for your child, it’s clear that ABA therapy can be a smart decision for parents to make.
The key, of course, is to link up with a board-certified therapist who shows a great understanding of your child’s needs and can create tailored plans that provide support in the areas where he/she needs it most.
Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is a popular tool for helping children with autism develop life skills. While ABA is expensive, up to $120 per hour on average, keep in mind the plethora of potential benefits which could make it a priceless addition to your child’s life. Despite the fact that most individuals require anywhere between 10-20 hours a week (and potentially up to 40) for up to three years, parents can bring the costs down through any of the methods above.
If still you are unsure which funding method or services are best, it is advisable that you speak to an agent.