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When to Stop ABA Therapy for Autism

Discover when to stop ABA therapy for autism, recognize progress indicators, and manage transitions effectively.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
June 4, 2024
8 min read
min read

Understanding ABA Therapy

As parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), understanding the basics of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy and its benefits for your child can be essential in making informed decisions about their treatment. This understanding can also play a crucial role when deciding about the right time to stop ABA therapy.

ABA Therapy Basics

ABA therapy, around since the 1960s, is one of the foremost evidence-based interventions for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) [1].

It's a treatment that aims to help individuals with ASD develop crucial skills and navigate the world by targeting specific abilities through a methodical approach to behavior comprehension.

One of the key strengths of ABA therapy is its flexibility. It can be customized to match each individual's specific requirements and preferences, regardless of age, developmental stage, or symptom intensity. This flexible framework adapts to changing priorities and goals, providing a tailored approach for each individual.

Benefits of ABA Therapy

Research spanning decades supports the effectiveness of ABA therapy in decreasing dysfunctional behaviors, enhancing adaptive abilities, and promoting increased independence in individuals with ASD. It's widely recognized as the best solution for autism due to empirical data.

ABA therapy is highly effective for individuals with autism and offers long-term benefits that significantly improve the quality of life for both individuals with autism and their families.

In summary, ABA therapy not only targets and improves specific behaviors but also greatly influences the quality of life and independence of individuals with autism. With its adaptable nature and proven effectiveness, ABA therapy can play a crucial part in your child's treatment plan. Understanding these facets of ABA therapy can help you make informed decisions about when it might be the right time to conclude the therapy.

Determining ABA Therapy Duration

The duration of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy plays a crucial role in its effectiveness. Understanding the recommended hours and how to transition these hours over time can help parents make informed decisions about when to stop ABA therapy.

Recommended Hours of ABA Therapy

Research supports a range between 20 to 40 hours of ABA therapy per week for children with autism, lasting at least two years or more. This recommendation is based on multiple studies including the Lovaas study, which suggests that 40 hours per week of ABA therapy can be beneficial for children with autism.

However, the number of hours can vary based on individual needs. For instance, children like Jack and Cody commonly start with 3 to 6 hours of early intervention providers per week, followed by parents implementing techniques daily for up to an hour or more per session [3].

Most children, similar to Jack and Cody, receive 20 hours per week of ABA therapy, with some receiving up to 30 hours per week based on their needs [3]. The average child in ABA therapy will receive anywhere between 10 to 30 hours per week for intense programs, and sometimes even 30 to 40 hours per week, as determined through an evaluation.

Child ABA Therapy Hours per Week
Average 10 - 30
Intense Program 30 - 40
Under 6 Years Old 30
Jack and Cody 20 - 30

Transitioning Hours Over Time

Over time, the number of hours dedicated to ABA therapy can change depending on the child's progress and needs. As the child progresses, the number of hours can naturally be reduced. However, if needed, the number of hours can also be increased [4].

For children under 6 years old, 30 hours per week is more common, whereas 40 hours per week is becoming less common [4].

Child's Age ABA Therapy Hours per Week
Under 6 years old 30
6 years old and above Less than 40

Understanding the recommended hours of ABA therapy and how to transition these hours over time is a key aspect in determining when to stop ABA therapy. It's important to remember that every child is unique and the therapy plan should be tailored to their individual needs and progress.

Signs for Ending ABA Therapy

Deciding when to stop ABA therapy can be a complex process that requires careful evaluation of the child's progress and needs. Regular communication and discussions among team members, including parents, therapists, and other professionals involved in the child’s care, are crucial to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the child’s development and determine the most appropriate time to end ABA therapy.

Progress Indicators

Progress on treatment goals and assessments plays a crucial role in determining when to discontinue ABA therapy. Monitoring the child's progress, rate of improvement, and achievements in treatment goals are essential factors to consider. Analyzing regular progress reports and assessments from the ABA provider can help decide whether to continue, reduce, or terminate therapy.

Specific indicators can guide the decision to adjust or end ABA therapy. These can include consistent and independent application of skills learned, generalization of skills to various settings, successful participation in social interactions, and sustained progress over time.

Behavioral Milestones

Recognizing when to continue with ABA therapy is crucial. If a child is still working towards important skills like self-care or making friends, struggles with daily routines, or has difficulty applying learned concepts outside of therapy, it usually means ABA therapy remains necessary.

On the other hand, signs of readiness to end ABA therapy include the achievement of goals, consistent maintenance of skills learned, and readiness to transition out of therapy, which should be evaluated through a collaborative discussion involving parents, therapists, and other professionals [2].

The decision to end or reinitiate ABA therapy should always be based on the individual’s specific needs and progress, with regular evaluations and assessments conducted to monitor progress and determine whether additional intervention is warranted.

In conclusion, signs for ending ABA therapy revolve around the child's progress indicators and the achievement of behavioral milestones. However, it is crucial to remember that each child is unique, and the decision to end therapy should be individualized and based on the child's specific needs and progress.

Transitioning Out of ABA Therapy

When it comes to determining when to stop ABA therapy, careful consideration and thoughtful planning are required. The transition period is a crucial phase that involves both the child and the parents.

Involving the Child in Discussions

It is important to involve the child in discussions regarding the discontinuation of ABA therapy. This step ensures a smoother transition as the child feels included and informed about their therapeutic journey. The objective is to help the child continue working toward personal and therapy-determined goals. Therapists believe that including the child in these discussions yields the best results [4].

Regular communication among team members, including parents, therapists, and other professionals involved in the child’s care, is crucial. This dialogue ensures a comprehensive understanding of the child’s development and helps determine the most appropriate time to end ABA therapy.

Recognizing when it’s time to reduce or fully step away from ABA therapy requires closely monitoring your child’s growth and progress. Both parents and professionals should be involved in this decision-making process [6].

Establishing a Maintenance Plan

Once the decision to end ABA therapy has been made, it is essential to establish a maintenance plan. This strategy helps to sustain the progress made during therapy.

The maintenance plan may involve periodic check-ins, follow-up sessions, and modifications as needed to ensure the child’s continued success. A thoughtful and comprehensive plan can help the child retain the progress made while minimizing the chances of regression.

Choosing to gradually reduce ABA therapy sessions rather than abruptly discontinuing them is the most beneficial path, unless the therapy itself triggers the child. This approach ensures a smoother transition and promotes the child’s continual growth and development.

Transitioning out of ABA therapy is a significant step that requires careful planning and thoughtful execution. By involving the child in the process and establishing a robust maintenance plan, parents can ensure that their child continues to thrive and progress even after the conclusion of therapy.

Factors Influencing ABA Therapy Conclusion

While the child's progress is a key factor in deciding when to stop ABA therapy, other considerations also play a role. This includes financial considerations and the availability of a robust support system.

Financial Considerations

The financial implications of ABA therapy are important to consider. Given the intensive nature of ABA therapy, the associated costs can become a determining factor in deciding when to conclude therapy. It's critical to note that certain states have coverage requirements for autism treatment, providing financial relief for families. However, for families facing financial constraints, it would be beneficial to explore options for financial support, grants, and appeals in case of funding source interference.

Support System Evaluation

The quality and availability of a support system are also critical in making the decision to end ABA therapy. Before discontinuing ABA therapy, it is necessary to ensure that there is adequate training, transition plans, and support networks in place post-therapy. It is also important to consider any upcoming life changes or events that may impact the child, such as a change in schools, the arrival of new siblings, or a relocation.

In conclusion, the decision to end ABA therapy is not solely based on the child's progress but also involves a comprehensive evaluation of financial circumstances and the available support system. This holistic assessment ensures that the child continues to thrive even after the conclusion of ABA therapy.

Reinitiating ABA Therapy

There are circumstances where ending Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy might not be permanent. In cases where there are regressions in skills or behaviors, or new challenges arise, it might be necessary to reinitiate therapy. This decision should always be based on the individual's specific needs and progress.

Addressing Regressions

Regression refers to a loss or decline in skills or behaviors previously learned during ABA therapy. If significant, it can necessitate the reinitiation of ABA therapy to reinforce skills, promote further progress, and address new challenges.

It's crucial to address these regressions promptly. Reinitiating therapy might be necessary, especially in cases of significant and persistent regressions.

In some instances, post-ABA therapy activities or other therapies can help improve the skills that might have regressed, ensuring the child continues working on the skills learned.

Monitoring Progress and Assessments

Even after ABA therapy ends, it's important to maintain a close watch on the child's progress. Establishing a maintenance plan can help sustain the progress made during therapy. This plan may involve periodic check-ins, follow-up sessions, and modifications as needed to ensure the child’s continued success.

Monitoring the progress and carrying out regular assessments can help identify any regressions in skills or behaviors that were previously learned during ABA therapy. If these assessments show significant regressions, it might be an indication that the therapy needs to be reinitiated.

In instances where the child shows new challenges or difficulties that weren't addressed during the previous ABA therapy, reinitiation of the therapy might also be necessary. The focus, in this case, should be to help the child overcome these new challenges while reinforcing the skills learned earlier.

Remember, the decision to end or reinitiate ABA therapy should always be based on the individual needs of the child. It's important to have open and ongoing discussions with the therapy team to ensure that the child is receiving the most appropriate support for their unique needs and circumstances.

References

[1]: https://greenpediatricsbehavioral.com/when-to-stop-aba-therapy/

[2]: https://www.rainbowtherapy.org/blogs-making-informed-choices-determining-the-right-time-to-end-aba-therapy/

[3]: https://marybarbera.com/aba-therapy-how-many-hours/

[4]: https://westsidechildrenstherapy.com/when-to-stop-aba-therapy/

[5]: https://www.attentivebehavior.com/when-should-my-child-stop-aba-therapy/

[6]: https://abacustherapies.com/when-to-stop-aba-therapy-for-kids-how-to-do-it/

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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