What Are The Benefits Of ABA Therapy?

What are the benefits of ABA therapy and how does it compare to other types of therapy?

Ruben Kesherim
June 7, 2024

What Are The Benefits Of ABA Therapy?

Who is ABA Therapy Helpful For?

ABA therapy is designed as a treatment resource for people of autism of any age. However, it is most often used to address autism in children, specifically in children under the ages of 18.

ABA therapy is designed as a treatment resource for people of autism of any age

In fact, it is used as an early intervention tool in children who show signs of autism in infancy or when they are toddlers. Parents may be the first people to observe these signs. They can include:

  • Not verbalizing or attempting to talk by age two
  • Not making or holding eye contact
  • Stimming or obsessive behaviors like rocking or humming
  • Tantrums or unexpected and extreme reactions to loud noises, changes to routines or new people
  • Not hitting milestones like walking, feeding oneself or failing to grasp items with their hands

Parents who observe or report such behaviors to their children's pediatricians may get referrals for ABA therapy services. However, some pediatricians fail to suggest ABA therapy for their patients and instead leave parents to find out how and where to obtain such services.

Parents who are not referred to ABA therapy after observing such behaviors in their children may find help with their local school district, especially those with early childhood educational services. They may also contact their health insurer to find out what certified or licensed ABA therapy services are available in their area.

ABA Therapy Pros and Cons

ABA therapy comes with a host of both pros and cons. The pros of ABA therapy center on the fact that it has a high rate of success among children with autism.

In fact, studies show children who take part in regular ABA therapy often master more beneficial learning and social behaviors and engage better with society on a daily basis. They also show a decrease in less desirable behaviors, such as explosive tantrums, violent reactions that can include hitting and throwing and obsessive behaviors like humming or rocking back and forth.

Children who are in ABA therapy likewise are statistically more likely to remain in school. They gain skills like sitting still, listening and following directions to help them engage better in a classroom setting and learn what they need to progress through school satisfactorily.

However, that is not to say ABA therapy is not without its detractors. In fact, critics of ABA therapy argue that is pushes children with autism to be “normal” and behave in the same way as children without autism. These critics say ABA therapy stigmatizes autism and children who exhibit signs of it.

Further, ABA therapy can be time consuming and require dozens of hours of patients' and parents' time each week. It also is tailored to each individual patient, meaning studies of autistic behaviors can be more challenging to gather and report. Parents looking for solid answers to how to help their children with autism may find it frustrating to devote so much time to ABA therapy and then wait to get documented results from it.

The Benefits of ABA Therapy for Autism

Overall, ABA therapy offers a wide variety of benefits for the people with autism who undergo it, as well as their parents or caretakers.

To start, people with autism learn vital social skills so they can go out in the world and engage others effectively.

These social skills may seem basic and common sense for people without autism. However, for people with autism, it can take practice and skill to look other people in the eyes, initiate and hold conversations and tolerate being around lots of people in a store, school setting or other places out in public.

People with autism learn basic hygiene skills, such as taking a shower everyday without help or choosing clothes and getting dressed independently. They also learn to comb their hair, tie their shoes and put on a jacket or coat before going outside in the cold. Again, these skills may seem simple for other people. However, people with autism often need help learning and remembering how to do them.

Parents and caretakers learn how to elevate their expectations for their children with autism as their children gain skills and proficiency. They may realize their children are capable of far more and can accomplish some basic tasks, such as making a simple meal, on their own. They learn to avoid setting the proverbial bar too low for their children simply because their children have autism.

Who Can Provide ABA Therapy Services?

People who provide ABA therapy services must first undergo specialized training and graduate with and obtain certain credentials before being allowed to work with individuals with autism. The leading providers of ABA therapy services are:

  • Board certified behavior analysts, or BCBAs
  • Board certified assistant behavior analysts, or BCABAs
  • Registered behavior technicians, or RBTs

These three ABA therapy service providers can work in private practices, for larger medical employers like mental health clinics or hospitals or for school districts. A BCBA is someone who has a master's degree in education or psychology and is board certified and licensed to work with patients with autism.

A BCABA is someone who has an undergraduate degree in education or psychology and works under the direct supervision of a BCBA while providing ABA therapy services. This person may also be someone working toward a master's degree in either field and be gaining hands-on work experience as part of his or her educational career.

Finally, an RBT likewise is someone works under the supervision of a BCBA and can provide basic ABA therapy services for patients. RBTs typically work hands-on with patients and interact with them most often. The BCBAs that supervise them may be responsible for outlining what ABA therapy services to provide to patients during each session.

Is ABA Therapy Covered by Insurance?

Parents who are told their children need ABA therapy often worry about how they will pay for it. After all, ABA therapy services can cost hundreds of dollars per hour. The total bill each week can far exceed how much parents, especially those working blue collar or lower paying jobs, can afford.

However, health insurers in a majority of states, as well as Washington D.C., are required by law to provide coverage for ABA therapy services.

Parents who live in one of the 38 states or the District of Columbia can use their health insurance to pay for most or all of the costs of these services. After their health insurance covers its part of their children's ABA therapy, parents may be left with very little, if anything at all, to pay out of their own pockets.

Further, children with autism may be eligible for government-subsidized benefits, such as Social Security Disability Income and Medicaid. Medicaid can help cover the costs of ABA therapy services and ensure children with autism get the early intervention help they need.

Parents who are unsure of whether or not their health insurance pays for ABA therapy can contact their insurers and find out for sure if or how much of these services are paid. They can also find out if they first must get a referral for ABA therapy. Some insurers may not agree to pay for services without parents first getting a referral from a pediatricians or other medical professional.

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy is a primary resource used to treat people with autism. ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis and centers around the science of behaviors and learning.

It is highly regarded as one of the main medical treatments for people with autism to help them better adjust to everyday society and overcome triggers and behavioral challenges they routinely encounter. Some of the tasks people with autism learn in ABA therapy include:

  • Preparing and cooking simple meals
  • Brushing one's teeth
  • Making a bed
  • Washing and folding laundry
  • Reducing challenging behaviors like stimming or rocking
  • Identifying and managing triggers like loud noises

Therapists known as registered behavior technicians, or RBTs, lead ABA therapy sessions. These sessions may take place on a weekly or twice-a-week basis. They may also occur more frequently or be spaced further apart, depending on the specific behavior needs of the person with autism.

The RBTs leading ABA sessions themselves remain under the supervision of Board Certified Behavior Analysts, or BCBAs. BCBAs have master's degrees in education or psychology. They also are board certified and licensed in the states where they work to administer and oversee ABA therapy sessions.

With regular ABA sessions, people with autism may learn the skills needed to integrate better into society and overcome challenges that bar them from making eye contact, holding conversations or interacting with people. They also may learn skills to help them perform better in school or work outside the home sufficiently.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196209/
  2. https://www.autismspeaks.org/applied-behavior-analysis
  3. https://www.abspectrum.org/benefits-of-applied-behavior-analysis-aba-therapy-for-children/

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