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Is ABA Therapy a Medical Benefit or Educational Benefit?

In June of 2012 a there was a federal policy change that took place that provided more families living with autism access to Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.


The United States Office of Personnel Management stated that there was enough evidence behind the use of ABA Therapy to make it a medical service and not an educational service. Granted this move is largely focused on government employees as the US Office of Personnel Management focuses on benefits offered to these employees, but it could also impact non-government workers as well.

Peter Bell, executive vice president for programs and services at Autism Speaks says, “The OPM decision directly contradicts a long-standing insurance industry claim that ABA therapy is not ‘medical’ but rather ‘educational’ – provided by the schools at taxpayer expense… Now tens of thousands of families will have better access to more affordable, critical ABA treatment.”

As of Jun 2012 thirty states required health insurance plans to include ABA therapy, according to Autism Speaks.

Many people will agree that ABA therapy is something that can be done in a variety of environments and all will agree that when a child with Autism is receiving ABA therapy that they will benefit the greatest when treatment plans and exercises are followed through with at home.

As with any medical therapy, it is most effective when it is done in an intensive environment where the child/therapist ratio is 1 on 1, this is important. It isn’t that schools don’t make an effort to carry out ABA therapy the vast majority of schools will do what budgets and staffing will allow them to do to help each child achieve their maximum potential.

The key is that ABA therapy is individual based. The foundation of any ABA program is that it is created for the individual child and their needs. Therefore you can’t create a group treatment plan and expect children to progress. This is one reason that intensive center based treatment is the most effective treatment option.

Another reason why center based ABA therapy is recommended over other options such as home based, is the application of skills being applied to the real world. Interaction with other children and other therapists helps teach the child with Autism how to function in social situations and other real world situations.

Finding a center that works for your child and your family is important because you will be working together to help your child with Autism achieve the fullest potential.

A couple things to look for when looking for an ABA therapy center:

  • Safe and welcoming environment
  • Educated staff (credentials and experience as well as passion matter)
  • Child to therapist ratio
  • Open communication
  • Parental involvement

Always request a tour and ask about the process for enrollment. See if they offer assistance to the family such as support groups and education.

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One thought on “Is ABA Therapy a Medical Benefit or Educational Benefit?”

  1. My friend has a son who was recently diagnosed with autism, so they are looking into ABA therapy for him. I like that you mention how individual-based therapy works best because some children can’t progress in a group. I can see how other children could be distracting to learning, so this makes a lot of sense to me.

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