A parent, caregiver or guardian of a child with autism or another disability may wonder, “How much ABA therapy is needed?” The answer to this is important because most private insurance programs place an annual limit on the cost of therapy or the number of hours of ABA therapy that a child can receive. Because ABA therapy costs average $120 per hour, families want to know how much of it they really need in order to maximize its benefit without running up their household expenses.
Consultation and Assessment
When a child is first identified as having autism spectrum disorder, cognitive impairment, anxiety and related conditions, an eating disorder, anger issues, borderline personality disorder or another condition, the first step is a consultation and assessment with an ABA therapist. The therapist may spend several hours over a period of several visits assessing the child in different areas of their life. Some of these assessments include the family and other caregivers. The assessments may take up to 20 hours before actual therapy begins.
Training for Other Caregivers
In addition to the assessments, sessions are also needed in order to train a child’s caregivers on ABA methods. If the child is ever cared for by anyone other than those whom they live with, then those caregivers should attend the training in order to provide consistency in care. Grandparents, respite care providers, adult siblings, babysitters and others may get up to 40 hours of training in therapy sessions with the child.
Number of Hours Per Week for Young or Severely-affected Children
According to Verywell Health, most research suggests that children need 40 hours per week of ABA therapy. That is more time than most children of the same age group spend in school per week. If the child also goes to school, then they could be occupied for about 75 hours per week between school and therapy, not counting transportation time. For most children and their families, this type of a schedule would not be reasonable. Some experts state that the 40 hours per week should be for preschool children or children who are in a special needs classroom that uses ABA therapy during the school day. Even if a family wanted their child to have 40 hours of ABA therapy every week, finding a provider with the availability to do this could be a challenge.
Number of Hours Per Week for Older or Moderately-affected Children
As a child gains skills, they could reduce their number of hours per week of ABA therapy. Most children will pick up some social skills and decrease their problem behaviors after consistent therapy schedules. A slow decrease in the number of hours per week of therapy may be called for in such cases. Children who are only moderately affected by their condition may also benefit from less than 40 hours per week of ABA therapy.
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At some point, a maximum benefit will be reached for how much the ABA therapy is helping a child with a disability. All children need some time to relax, play, go outside, try sports, engage in hobbies and spend time with their families, and excessive ABA therapy sessions could get in the way of a family’s other goals. Knowing how much ABA therapy is needed could help a family prioritize their time, money and other resources.