The Pros and Cons of ABA Therapy

Applied behavior analysis therapy

Approximately one in every 88 children is given a diagnoses of autism. Unfortunately, children with autism often don’t get the opportunity to succeed in life. Only about 35% of children who are diagnosed with autism ever achieve an education beyond high school or hold their own job. The chances of a child with autism reaching these achievements greatly increases if they are introduced to applied behavior analysis therapy (ABA therapy).


ABA therapy focuses on explaining how a child with autism learns new skills, or discourages negative behaviors. For example, positive reinforcement is commonly used in ABA therapy. Although a child with autism might not naturally follow the learning patterns that a child without autism does, when they follow the action that is being taught to them, they are awarded. As this is reinforced, they develop a positive relationship with taking the action they need to adopt.

ABA therapy is the most common form of therapy for children with autism, accounting for approximately 45% of the successful tools used for therapy for children with autism. However, as with every form of therapy, it has its own set of pros and cons.


The Pros and Cons of Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

  • PRO: Research supports that applied behavior analysis therapy is effective.
    Applied behavior analysis therapy has been used for autism treatment for decades, and in that time, there have been hundreds of studies that show it consistently achieves positive results.


    Parents of children with autism are told the early years after a child is diagnosed with autism are critical for rewiring their brain and helping them gain learning and communicative skills they’ll use throughout their life. Applied behavior analysis therapy offers a thoroughly-researched and established method of doing that.
  • CON:Applied behavior analysis therapy requires time and money.

    Many studies concerning applied behavior analysis therapy suggest that the best results are achieved through 40 hours of therapy per week. The cost of employing a trained ABA therapist for one-on-one applied behavior analysis therapy with a child full-time puts it out of reach for many families. Even public schools who provide applied behavior analysis therapy to their students with autism struggle to provide the resources to allow each child to participate in applied behavior analysis therapy for 40 hours per week. Insurance providers treat applied behavior analysis therapy differently, but rarely do they cover it for this much time.


    However, even if a child is unable to receive 40 of applied behavior analysis therapy per week, receiving 20 hours or less per week will often help them make great strides in their development. It might take slightly longer to see the results though.

  • PRO: Professionals who are trained in applied behavior analysis therapy receive a thourough education.

    In order to receive credentials as an applied behavior analysis therapist, professionals often go through extensive training. Most applied behavior analysis therapists have master’s degrees, or higher, giving them ample knowledge to draw from in developing the best program for the child who is going through the therapy.


    Additionally, the integrity of applied behavior analysis therapy is supported by well developed and supervised programs that offer applied behavior analysis therapy. Therapists generally have clearly defined protocols for developing the best treatment for a child with autism, removing any guesswork that might or might not be successful.

  • CON: Unqualified therapists can claim to specialize in applied behavior analysis therapy.
    Although the training that goes into applied behavior analysis therapy is extensive, there is not a universal applied behavior analysis therapy licensing standard. This means that therapists can claim to follow the applied behavior analysis therapy methodology, without being properly trained or equipped to offer it.

    Although anyone can claim to follow the ABA therapy process, there is a Behavior Analyst Certification Board that keeps a database of therapists who have qualified by their standards. It is the responsibility of the parents of the child to understand what qualifications a therapist should have in order to offer ABA therapy, and to check with with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board before enrolling a child in a treatment program.

No parent wants their child to receive an autism diagnoses. However, with proper treatment and therapy, your child may be able to make substantial strides in development, and reach accomplishments you never imagined would be possible. Applied behavior analysis is a valuable tool in that mission.

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