Table of Contents

What is ABA?

ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis.

ABA focuses on helping individuals (commonly with autism) acquire socially important skills such as communication, social and daily living skills. This ranges from developing initial speech skills to teaching perspective-taking and empathy. ABA is also used to reduce maladaptive behavior focusing not just on decreasing a behavior but replacing the behavior with new ways of communicating.

Specifically ABA therapy programs often times focus on:

  • Increasing language and communication skills
  • Improving social skills such as initiating play, sharing and learning in a group setting
  • Increasing independence skills such as toileting (potty training), daily living skills, and self-advocacy
  • Decreasing maladaptive behaviors while simultaneously increasing an alternative behavior to help the child best communicate his/her/their needs

ABA is most often used to help individuals with autism, though it is important to know that ABA can also be used to address issues outside of this diagnosis and in a variety of settings. For example, ABA is used to increase productivity and safety in corporate work places and is also a new treatment option for Alzheimer’s in the elderly population.

Who provides ABA therapy?

ABA therapy is overseen or supervised by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs).

ABA therapy programs also involve therapists, or registered behavior technicians/Interventionists (RBTs/RBAIs). These therapists are trained and supervised by the BCBA or BCaBA. They work directly with children and adults with autism to practice skills and work toward the individual goals written by the BCBA.

The main difference between the BCBA and RBT/RBAIs is that a BCBA can practice independently and are in charge of supervising the RBT/RBAI. A BCBA is responsible for designing and monitoring the services that their technicians implement daily.

How ABA Therapy Works:

Consultation and Assessment
The therapist will start by performing a thorough assessment using different assessments (criterion based and norm referenced) to evaluate your child’s strengths and weaknesses across several domains.

During these assessments the therapist will also assess what your child enjoys the most (reinforcers) and how the child best learns. This information will be useful in helping to determine individualized goals and objectives for your child.

The five skill areas ABA therapists will assess are:

  • Communication
  • Daily Living
  • Social / Play
  • Problem Behavior
  • Executive Functioning

This information is then used to help create an individualized treatment plan and goals for your child.

Qualities you should look for in an ABA therapist

A good ABA therapist is empathetic, creative, patient, and persistent. They are able to connect well with your child and have the ability to understand what drives their behavior and how that behavior can be influenced.

What questions should I ask a therapist before starting ABA therapy?

  • How will you assess my child’s needs?
  • How will you support my child meeting their goals?
  • How can I participate in sessions and learn how to support my child?
  • How often will we meet to discuss progress?
  • How will we know when therapy is no longer needed?

Developing a Therapy Plan

Your child’s therapist will develop a treatment plan which is a formal plan (submitted to and approved by insurance) which includes updated assessment results, intervention plans, individualized goals, and caregiver/parent training.

Caregiver Training

To help your child do his/her/their best with ABA therapy you, your family, and other caregivers will be given the tools and strategies needed to reinforce the training across all of the settings that your child encounters during their day.

At the start of therapy your child’s therapist will determine caregiver training goals. They will work with you to support you in meeting the needs of your child and will help explain to you why your child’s particular behaviors occur, and how to respond to help support them. These goals will be individualized to meet your child’s and your family’s needs.

Evaluation Frequency

ABA therapists use both standardized and norm referenced assessments to best ensure an accurate representation of your child’s strengths and areas for growth across multiple domains. These assessments help ensure that the therapy being provided is meeting your child’s particular needs.

The BCBA will use a variety of tools at set times to measure progress, including developmental milestones, standardized assessments, and school readiness screenings. BCBAs evaluate progress on current treatment goals each week and formal evaluations/assessments (with new treatment goals) occur approximately every 6 months.

LifeStance Health specializes in ABA Therapy with multiple locations in 1 state. Services vary by location.

Find a location near you:

What about the controversy surrounding ABA?

ABA therapy is currently one of the most common and effective methods of treatment that is prescribed by physicians for children on the spectrum, and is considered to be the “gold standard”. However, it has gained lots of attention in the media for trying to “assimilate” autistic individuals. Here at LifeStance we highly value this feedback from the autistic community and work to ensure that our ABA therapy respects the uniqueness of all autistic individuals. We view each child as a unique individual that should have a say in their therapy including goals and programs, and that their uniqueness should be praised instead of changed. All of our BCBAs have formal training in this area and will work with each family to find goals for their child that best meet the child’s needs while also respecting their child for who he/she/they are.

ABA therapy is traditionally known as a therapy to increase “good” behavior and decrease “bad” behavior, however we understand that behavior isn’t simply good or bad and instead is often a way of communicating a specific need or desire. If a behavior needs changing, we will first work hard to understand why that behavior is occurring so we can teach the child a way to still communicate this need in a more appropriate or clear manner.

Overall ABA therapy at LifeStance highlights capitalizing on the individual strengths of our clients and their unique abilities while coming alongside the child and his/her/their family to support any areas of support that the child needs to be more happy and independent.

Is there evidence that ABA works? Is it right for my child?

There are multiple therapies for children who have autism. ABA is one of the few therapies that is “evidence based”, meaning
that there have been years of scientific research documenting its success and fine-tuning the procedures.

ABA commonly focuses on increasing communication and independent living skills as well as decreasing maladaptive behaviors
such as non-compliance, demand avoidance, or problem behavior. In addition to ABA, many of our clients often receive
Occupational Therapy (OT) and Speech Therapy (SLP) outside of LifeStance. Though we don’t offer these services at LifeStance,
we do seek to coordinate care and work closely with OTs and SLPs to best meet the needs of our clients.

The following resources outline the different options for evidence-based therapy, as well as treatments that are considered
evidence-based and not evidence-based.

Is ABA covered by insurance?

ABA is covered by most state-funded and commercial insurances. To be sure that ABA is covered by your health insurance it is always best to verify this with your insurance provider first.

Where do I find ABA services?

LifeStance can help you find professionals who are trained to provide ABA consultations, assessments, and therapy. Please use the provider search available on this page for more information.

Need an Interpreter?

We have interpretation services available here at LifeStance for ABA services. For more information or to request an interpreter, please call 503-612-1000 (Select “ABA Program”).