13 ABA Therapy Pros and Cons

Find a list of pros and cons of applied behavior analysis therapy. We'll cover important advantages and disadvantages of the therapy.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
April 11th, 2023

What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of ABA Therapy?

Below are important pros and cons of ABA therapy, keep reading! You'll be surprised by how many advantages of ABA therapy there is for children on the autism spectrum.

ABA Therapy Pros

  1. The Effectiveness of ABA Is Based on Research
  2. It’s Easy for Parents to Learn
  3. It Can Be Altered to Fit the Needs Of Individual Children
  4. ABA Therapy Is Conducted by Professional Therapists
  5. It Allows Symptoms to Be Recognized and Treated Early
  6. Parents Have a Say in the Way Their Children Are Treated
  7. It Increases Skills and Cognitive Abilities
  8. It Can Result in Fewer Days of Absence From School

PRO - The Effectiveness of ABA Is Based on Research

The ability of ABA therapy to give successful treatment for autism has earned it recommendations by government and private associations all over the world.

The US Surgeon General lists ABA therapy as the best treatment for the autistic, listing its history of studies and heavy scrutiny as evidence by researchers.

Its ability to encourage children to talk, learn new things, and socialize, even in those with severe cases, is a big factor in the recommendations made to behavioral analysis.

The amount of research conducted on ABA is large and continues to be studied to this day. Some of the first research was done in the early 70s when the therapy began to focus on primarily treating the autistic.

PRO - It’s Easy for Parents to Learn

The parents of autistic children play a pivotal role in their development with ABA courses.

Therapists encourage parents to learn the techniques they use to help children understand how to make decisions that create acceptable behaviors.

Many clinics even offer courses specifically for parents, often referred to as training for parents.

An assigned behavior analyst works with parents by teaching them to aid in their progression while in a home or school.

Furthermore, teachers are sometimes counseled when the need arises from having to teach multiple kids that are on the spectrum.

Parents that are taught this will see improvements in not only their child's social skills but in getting them to listen and behave in settings and situations that were once challenging.

PRO - It Can Be Altered to Fit the Needs Of Individual Children

ABA programs are subject to change and refinement according to every child. Because of this, there isn't an atypical course.

When children are examined and a profile is made, the therapist will assess them to courses that best fit the symptoms that must be mitigated.

The individual of someone with autism matters more than the signs exhibited.

What helps one child to speak more might not have any success on another showing the same symptoms.

And this is where therapists try to understand before moving forward with programs they think will work. For longer programs, a therapist may change to courses that are harder or easier, depending on their progress.

PRO - ABA Therapy Is Conducted by Professional Therapists

ABA Therapy clinics are staffed by experts in the fields of child psychology, general psychology, and developmental psychology.

While a BCBA may hold degrees in other related majors, the study of psychology is what clinics usually look for when hiring new BCBAs.

But before that, analysts must also pass an exam by the Board of Certified Behavior Analysts, where certification is provided after passing.

Clinics typically take in employers with at least a bachelor's, though many BCBAs possess a Master's, Doctorate, or P.h.D.

When parents or guardians of a child are introduced to BCBAs, their credentials and certifications are usually posted to verify their background.

PRO - It Allows Symptoms to Be Recognized and Treated Early

Since behavioral analysts have extensive training and an academic background in psychology, they're often able to detect and pinpoint symptoms that would not have been found by parents.

ABA therapy is managed by such professionals, not armchair clinicians with no experience. Formal training often begins during a student's undergraduate semesters in college.

They're trained on how to notice symptoms of autism, which helps to promote a quicker rate of recovery for many people, small children in particular.

With good treatment, behavioral analysis can have an impact on a child's learning to the point where they earn better grades at school.

PRO - Parents Have a Say in the Way Their Children Are Treated

An issue resulting from autism is likely to be reduced or go away entirely when the parents are directly involved in their child's treatment.

Many clinics have specialists that cater to the needs of parents, helping them to have a say in many of the programs administered to their children.

Most clinicians personally talk with parents before courses, where some can be taken out if they feel that it wouldn't be beneficial.

It's not uncommon for some to refuse more than one course, which most analysts will oblige to. Overall, ABA therapy doesn't limit the role that parents can play during treatment.

PRO - It Increases Skills and Cognitive Abilities

The ability of autistic children to learn normally can be impacted by an inability to speak or keep themselves from having tantrums.

If teaching is difficult, then a child's cognitive ability and knowledge could be slowed.

Cognitive functions are needed by both children and adults to function in the world, though the critical age for attaining development in this area is young.

Gross motor skills are one step in this progress, and behavioral technicians sometimes conduct courses to stimulate a child's development with an imaginative play that involves exercises meant to help them retain important learning abilities. This ties closely with communication and social ability.

PRO - It Can Result in Fewer Days of Absence From School

Unless parents or guardians make an effort to inform their child's teachers about their ABA courses, the school could easily mistake their time spent away from the class as truancy.

ABA therapy is far from an intentional way to keep kids from school.

The courses are proven to help kids stay in school once they return to class, with fewer to no classroom disruptions that may have previously taken place.

Many of the irritabilities that autistic kids have with school stem from being unable to deal with the social pressures which exist there.

ABA therapy can help young students create friendships with other kids and bond with their teachers.

ABA Therapy Cons

  1. Difficulty Finding Good Therapists in Some Regions
  2. Arguably Discourages Initiative-Based Thinking
  3. The Time Which It Takes to See Results Can Vary
  4. ABA Therapy Can Be Expensive
  5. Courses Can Be Long and Timely
  6. Effects on Individual Cases Can Conflict With Research

CON - Difficulty Finding Good Therapists in Some Regions

Take note that most ABA clinics are staffed with professional therapists with an excellent background and track record.

However, based on the region, it might be hard for some parents to find one that's efficiently regulated by the state in which it resides.

Of course, this doesn't apply to all but does open the door up to potential scammers.

If few legal requirements are needed for a fraudulent ABA clinic to open up, then someone could technically call themselves a therapist with limited legal repercussions.

This is why parents need to look into the credentials and reviews of any ABA clinic being considered for their child.

CON - Arguably Discourages Initiative-Based Thinking

While in therapy, a child with autism will be told to do things in a way that could be taken as robotic.

This is sometimes interpreted as teaching by discouraging thinking that's independent.

Throughout the country, most children are taught to show initiative, and the ability to make decisions on their own without being told what to do.

To detractors, ABA therapy uses drills to show students the right and wrong types of behavior to exhibit in any given situation.

Studies show that overall, this isn't true since BCBAs help kids to learn the building blocks regarding social interaction and their general behavior, much like a child learning the alphabet.

CON - The Time Which It Takes to See Results Can Vary

There's no way for clinicians to accurately predict how long ABA courses will take. Mild autism is usually shorter, while severe cases may take much longer.

But there's no guarantee on this. ABA therapy can last from as little as a couple of weeks to months or even years.

This has sometimes led to frustration among parents that might have expected the program to be over quicker than anticipated.

Some kids learn faster than others and those with autism are no different. Behavior analysts stress to parents that the process is nonlinear and should be expected to go on for at least several months.

CON - ABA Therapy Can Be Expensive

This is one of the major criticisms of ABA therapy, one that can prevent children in certain places, those who need it the most, from getting treatment.

ABA treatment is covered by most health insurance providers, though some could attempt to cover it.

Per Year$62,400 to $249,600
Per Month$4,800 to over $20,000
Per Week$1,200 to $4,800
Per Day$240 to $600
Per Hour$120 to $150

On the other hand, many states legally require providers to cover ABA courses when they're recommended and prescribed by a doctor.

Read More: ABA Therapy Cost

Courses Can Be Long and Timely

10 hours per week is the average time of an ABA course.

Yet it's common for them to last much longer, even longer than a child's weekly school hours. When that happens, weekly hours can start at 20 but increase to 40.

This can cause scheduling issues for parents who must balance work, schooling, and driving to and from the ABA clinic.

Read More: How Many Hours Of ABA Therapy Is Needed?

Effects on Individual Cases Can Conflict With Research

ABA treatment in its entirety could be an issue. With much of the courses focused on individual cases, whether or not a child gets good treatment can change.

This has also caused conflicting assessments when research is done on ABA therapy.

The result can lead to problems for therapists to accurately gauge what results from the treatment and whether it'll have a lasting benefit.

steven zauderer

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

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