How can ABA therapy supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) help me?

A number of benefits are available from participating in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy with BCBA consultation. BCBAs can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Many people also find that BCBA consultants and their teams can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, communication skills, and the hassles of daily life. BCBA consultants can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from ABA therapy and parent training/consultation depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Due to the nature of our current clientele and the funding environment–only those diganosed with ASD are currently covered by most funding sources (with some exceptions, CONTACT US for more information)– many answers in this section pertain to children with ASD, but because our therapy can be highly beneficial to adults and children with any developmental disability or behavioral challenges, we are happy to serve individuals of all ages and all diagnoses!  

Some of the benefits available from ABA therapy include:

  • Improving communication skills
  • Developing skills for improving your child’s relationships, and others’ relationships with your child with ASD
  • Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek behavioral therapy
  • Learning new ways to cope with the difficulties associated with ASD
  • Managing anger, stress, or other behavioral challenges with your child with an ASD
  • Improving understanding and listening skills
  • Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
  • Discovering new ways for your child to solve problems
  • Becoming more skilled at creating positive behavior supports and what has become known as “positive parenting”

Do I really need ABA therapy? I am successfully raising my children without autism.

Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through difficulties you’ve faced with your children who are not on the spectrum, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. Parenting a child with autism, as many of our clients can attest, is entirely different than parenting a child without autism.  The techniques and strategies for discipline that work in many children without autism often do not work to obtain the necessary behavior change to be able to go out to eat, to the grocery store, or even manage bedtime or bathtime. In fact, ABA therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you are in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking ABA therapy and consultation. ABA provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to acknowledge and re-direct damaging behavior patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.

Why do people get ABA therapy and how do I know if it is right for me?

People have many different motivations for calling our office.  Some may be an “old pro” (have parented a child with autism through their entire childhood) but are guiding their child through a major life transition (ending high school and gaining employment, moving into a host home/supported living environment, moving into independent living, etc.), and some are entirely new at guiding a child through their diagnosis (newly diagnosed, starting preschool, obtaining early intervention, navigating public or private school).  Some people need assistance supporting their child in managing a range of other issues such as behavior challenges (related or not related to autism), anxiety, flexibility struggles, social and relationship problems, skill deficits in school, or speech and language concerns. ABA consultation by a qualified BCBA can help provide some much needed encouragement and help with skills to get them through these periods. Others may be at a point where they want to be more effective supporting their children (or, in the case of the individual who seeks our services, supporting themselves) with their goals in life.   In short, people seeking ABA therapy are ready to meet the challenges in their lives and ready to make changes in their lives and the lives of their children. ABA therapy is right for you if your child is experiencing one of these life situations and needs support, or if your child is struggling to navigate the social, imperfect world we live in. Research supports the idea that most children with autism will see benefits from ABA therapy, including improved communication, social skills, and quality of life.

What is ABA therapy like?

Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual.  Our field takes pride in individually caring for each child, and Tanner Autism Services of CO is no different. Often we hear the saying, “when you’ve seen one child with autism, you’ve seen ONE child with autism.” In general, you can expect to see the principles of behaviorism and particularly applied behaviorism to include systems of making the world more clear to the individual (such as spotlighting what is important in their social world so the “clutter” drops away), fading back prompts after assessing what level of prompting the client may need, and shaping, or rewarding approximations to whatever goal we are working on until it gets closer and closer to the final goal, ultimately achieving it. If your child is young, therapy will look a lot like child’s play, and with some training, you can interact with your child in the same therapeutically beneficial way as we do! A HUGE component of our therapy is the parents and guardians taking the skills into the rest of the day’s activities. Depending on you child’s specific needs, therapy can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more established patterns of behavior.  Either way, it is most common to schedule regular sessions with your ABA therapist (usually multiple sessions weekly) and an overlap with the BCBA at least a couple times a month.  The fewer the hours we see children, the less effective we can be according to the research backing up what we are doing, and the less likely your family is to see the benefits of ABA therapy.  We hope to work ourselves out of a job, and that takes time, especially up front!It is important to understand that you will get more results from ABA therapy if you actively participate in the process.  The ultimate purpose of ABA therapy is to help you bring what you learn in parent coaching sessions back into your interactions with your child.  Therefore, beyond the work you do in coaching sessions, your BCBA may suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your process – such as reading a pertinent book, journaling on specific topics, taking data on particular behaviors, or taking action on your goals, like teaching your child how to eat or pay for a meal at a restaurant. People seeking ABA therapy are ready to make positive changes in their lives and the lives of their children, are open to new perspectives, and take responsibility for their lives.

What about medication vs. ABA therapy?

It is well established that the long-term solution to the problems associated with autism and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. There is currently no pill that cures autism, though many medications have been shown to reduce certain symptoms.  ABA therapy addresses the root causes of autism and the behavior patterns that curb your child’s progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness. Working with your medical doctor you can determine what’s best for your family, and in some cases a combination of medication and ABA therapy is the right course of action.

What about "alternative" treatments for my child?

Currently there is not enough research on therapies outside of the speech therapy, PT, OT, and behavioral world for our clients with autism.  That absolutely does not mean that other methods are not beneficial, it just means that there may not yet be enough research on them to declare them scientifically validated.  As BCBAs, it is our ethical responsibility to determine if there is research to support “alternative” therapies as beneficial to our clients. We may request empirically based articles from the professionals who are working with your child surrounding these alternative therapies.  Our general stance is that we want you to take data before and after the treatments. Without evidence that there is likely to be a significant improvement in your child’s behavior, socialization, and communication, however, we as BCBAs cannot ethically support the treatment and at best it has wasted some time that could have been used to provide one on one therapy to your child that is well researched to support such improvements.  Many of our clients do engage in harmless (and potentially helpful) alternative therapies. We just ask that the data support the therapy for groups of children with autism in controlled studies, or at least for YOUR child specifically through data we take together!

Do you take insurance, and how does that work?

To determine if you have autism coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them.  Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers. We will first ask for your insurance cards, and will check your eligibility.  Then, we will begin an assessment, which is typically covered by insurance carriers.  We will bill your insurance company, and if you do not have Medicaid, we will bill you only for the amount your insurance carrier does not cover (e.g. copays, deductibles, out of pocket costs).  If you have most Medicaid coverages, no bill will be passed on to you at all!  WE DO NOT CURRENTLY ACCEPT CHIP+, AS ABA IS NOT A COVERED SERVICE AT THIS TIME WITH THEM.  Some helpful questions you can ask your insurance agency:  
  • What are my mental health and autism benefits?
  • What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
  • How much (or how many sessions, though most insurances cover a set financial amount for the plan year) does my plan cover?
  • How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider? (Tanner Autism services is In-Network with many providers!)
  • Is approval required from my primary care physician?

Will our sessions remain confidential?

Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and BCBA.  Successful ABA therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive material that is usually not discussed anywhere but sessions.   Tanner Autism Services of CO will provide a written copy of our confidentiality agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss with your therapist and BCBA will not be shared with anyone without your express written consent.  Sometimes, however, you may want your BCBA to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your Physician, Teachers, Attorney), but by law we cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission, which we will need to do before our first session, typically.