When To Stop ABA Therapy For Your Child

Learn when to stop ABA therapy for your child in this up-to-date guide + how long should a child attend ABA therapy.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
August 2nd, 2022

Key Takeaways

According to ABA therapy professionals, ABA should be stopped when:

  • When the child has completed 2-3 years of intensive therapy followed by 2-3 more years in a focused approach.
  • When the primary objectives of the therapy have been reached or fulfilled.
  • When the person in therapy doesn’t exhibit the most common symptoms of autism.
  • When progress has been slow or halted over weeks or months.
  • When nothing seems to be helping to mitigate issues with the patient, either from the therapists or family members

There is no precise way to tell when someone should end their ABA sessions.

In some cases, parents might be recommended when little to no progress is showing in the patient.

It might take some time for specialists to come to this conclusion, months even.

When they do, the basis of what they say will be founded on the behavior changes and data shown in the file of the patient.

This report will also contain information about them before the treatment and the amount of progress that was expected to be made.

All of this can be done with the help of a board-certified behavior analyst, or BCBA.

When consistent goals are being shown in therapy, ABA sessions should be considered shortened or finalized altogether.

When a kid has reached a point where such a decision can be discussed, it’s usually referred to as a social significance. It’s used to give a better choice for ending treatment.

When ABA therapy makes the life of the child and their family better through noticeably improved interaction with peers, family, and fewer unwanted behavior patterns, it might be time for sessions to be downscaled.

Read More: How Does ABA Therapy Work?

However, when a child continues to have problems during treatment, it’s suggested that a BCBA be notified.

They can change the program for it to better fit the child and make changes to the way they learned.

A BCBA also has the authority to terminate the treatment at any time.

But when goals have been previously made and there’s a short period of nothing achieved, talking to a therapist about goals that weren’t thought should be considered.

If none can be agreed upon or there doesn’t appear to be any, the therapy may end or have its hours reduced to make up for the lack of new progress.

ABA therapy isn’t something that everyone can afford. The usual time for sessions is about 40 hours every week.

Read More: How Many ABA Therapy Hours Is Needed?

The time in session can be pretty intense, especially for small children but even parents.

Much consideration should be made about such instances when choosing a set number of hours for sessions.

The time when the child isn’t in therapy may be used for other ABA therapy-related objectives recommended by a BCBA.

How long should a child attend ABA therapy?

Two and six years are the perfect times for parents to start ABA therapy for a child.

This doesn’t mean that ABA therapy should be a years-old plan that will reach well into their adolescence.

When treatment is conducted, several indicators will reveal when therapy is ready to be slowed or ended. There’s not a set time for when this can happen.

Read More: How To Deal With An Autistic Child

How long will ABA therapy take for my child to complete?

A child will usually get around 10 to 30 hours of ABA therapy per week.

But it’s not uncommon to have them in session for 30 and 40 hours per week, particularly for more intensive care.

how many hours of aba therapy do i need

Every child’s plan laid out by the practitioners is chosen after an evaluation is done.

Once improvements are seen while in therapy, the number of hours might be lowered to reflect the child’s learning abilities or wanted results.

Children that are six years old or less typically get around 30 hours of ABA therapy per week. A full-time schedule is less common for smaller kids.

Should I slowly decrease hours or just stop ABA therapy?

Lowering the time in session at a slow rate is better than abruptly ending treatment, for the child and their parents.

Decreasing hours can help parents, kids, and the therapists they regularly see make better decisions on things that should end with data and behaviors shown in their reports.

should i stop aba therapy

To reiterate, parents shouldn’t make any of these choices on their own.

With the right amount of assistance given, the transition from going into therapy and finding out the right amount of time a child needs is easy to do.

All can be worked out by parents talking one-on-one with therapists.

With all parties involved, a plan of transition can be formed that helps the child move and learn at a pace that’s perfect for them.

Does ABA therapy work long-term?

Overall, there’s little to no concrete evidence of ABA therapy sessions working in the long term since it doesn’t cure autism.

Read More: Autism Cure & Treatment

People on the spectrum can and still do exhibit relative symptoms. However, those symptoms can be mitigated through ABA therapy.

does aba therapy work long term

As for long-term sessions, it’s not uncommon to see people with autism going in for therapy for over 10 years. But for most patients, small children included, that won’t be necessary.

Read More: Autism & Anger

How do I terminate an ABA service?

Termination of ABA services is a gradual process. It can change from case to case, and from client to client.

For the most part, ABA isn’t abruptly stopped. When a client starts to exhibit achievements in set goals, the treatments usually begin to slow down after a while.

Reducing hours at a gradual pace is done to ensure that the goals they pick up on, including that outside of ABA, don’t regress themselves.

This slow but moderate speed of cutting back hours greatly assists in making the switch easier for everyone, to the point where the child won’t be suddenly cut off from activities they might have gotten used to.

Using a five-year-old as an example, their autism symptoms might have started as severe during the time of treatment, whereby it’s difficult to impossible to have a conversation with them.

In this situation, their social skills could be severely lacking and tantrums frequent.

Once the therapy begins and progress is shown over weeks or months, the parents might be anxious to pull them out of ABA therapy.

But most therapists usually wouldn’t recommend this, especially to a child that’s so young.

Instead, they first begin by leaving set goals alone, cutting out hours instead of using that time to go over secondary issues that might be noticed.

If positive results continue to be seen, the therapist may half the hours of treatment or cut back the number of days that the child shows up during the week.

This would eventually lead to them not needing ABA therapy since what way set out to be achieved would be done.

Reducing time itself could be done with the child, allowing them to have a say in the therapy.

Of course, ABA always begins with decision-making that’s done by the child’s parent or guardian.

But allowing them to be a part of it can help them become aware of the therapy, why it’s important for them, and the goals they’re striving for to reach.

Not every child has the capacity to do this, so it won’t be possible for all.

Yet having conversations with a child concerning the goals and what they mean has been shown to help immensely with the overall therapy process.

It could even shorten therapy sessions down and make them learn quicker.

Most of the time, cutting back hours or days spent in therapy isn’t a choice that only the parents themselves will have to make on their own.

Therapy can be guided towards a shifting schedule that works well.

Before and during ABA therapy, a provider can give you consistent information about where things stand and if hours are suggested to be shortened.

But above all, every choice done will be for the well-being of the child.

Understanding is done through lots of conversation, throughout the days and weeks of therapy.

The ultimate objective of ABA is to give children the knowledge they need to make their life better.

Therapists can do this by allowing space for changes to be made during sessions.

When should ABA not be stopped?

ABA therapy shouldn’t be stopped when it’s clear that the child hasn’t completed their primary goals.

when aba therapy should not be stopped

However, there are more reasons for holding off on discontinuing ABA sessions. Here are some of them:

1. Goals aren’t yet finalized

ABA therapy isn’t something that can be rushed through.

Some kids learn faster than others, but many simply won’t reach set goals in a timeframe that’s on par with what parents sometimes might do.

Therefore, the therapy must be conducted with care, and without the intent of getting a child through it too fast.

When rushing is done, ABA therapy is much more likely to be needed again sometimes shortly.

But with slow navigation of plans to familiarize the child with what’s going on, their behavior, and what can be done to help them better adjust to their autism, ABA therapy can have benefits that stay with them for the entirety of their lives.

2. The child isn’t on the spectrum

Not every child taking ABA therapy courses may be autistic.

For this reason, it’s strongly recommended that parents get their children evaluated for diagnosis before assigning them to ABA therapy.

Children sometimes exhibit tendencies that are identical to spectrum-related disorders but might not be autistic at all.

Having a diagnosis can reveal if they’re autistic or not.

At the same time, more financial assistance for paying for the treatment can open up, since a diagnosed child can be prescribed ABA therapy courses by their pediatrician.

3. No tangible progress has been achieved

This is quite a common occurrence with ABA therapy. At some point, the child might come to a point where they simply don’t pick up on more.

This can happen at any time, though is most common once they’ve become familiar with the courses.

It might also happen if there’s not much that changes throughout the session they have.

When no progress is seen, it could be a sign that either course should be adjusted to conform to what they need for progress to commence or therapy should begin wrapping up altogether.

4. The plan for treatment doesn’t seem to help their child’s autism

There is no cure for autism. ABA therapy, while certainly helpful, doesn’t always guarantee that symptoms of autism will go away.

When they don’t, it’s usually from having a treatment plan that doesn’t correctly fit the child.

In this predicament, maybe the courses set for the child are too long, too short, or they don’t precisely target what should be done to get the preferred behavior.

This is why parents must talk with their child’s therapist and keep a watchful eye for any signs that could indicate a change in the treatment administered.

It could be something small, a simple change in the room where sessions are conducted, or even a transfer to a therapist willing to work at a location that’s better for the child.

Familiar places like the home of the parents and child are a great alternative to providing therapy at a brick-and-mortar clinic.

What should I do once I’ve stopped ABA therapy?

After ABA therapy is over, you should adhere to the information provided to you before your child’s final day of treatment.

All therapists will provide this sometime before treatment ends.

You should continue to help them in their transition, by applying what was learned to assist in their autism while at home.

Ending ABA shouldn’t be taken as a cure, but the next step in a child managing their autism.

As such, improvements after therapy can be made, an accomplishment made possible by helping them to work on the things they’ve learned previously.

Furthermore, always consider additional ABA therapy, if needed.

Other programs to help further their speech and occupational therapy work well for children having just completed ABA sessions.

But ABA itself is a step in the right direction, a proven way of helping the young and old broaden their speech, behavior, and social abilities.

Read More: At-Home ABA Therapy

References

  1. https://www.attentivebehavior.com/when-should-my-child-stop-aba-therapy/
  2. https://westsidechildrenstherapy.com/when-to-stop-aba-therapy/
  3. https://optimistminds.com/when-to-stop-aba-therapy/
  4. https://childmind.org/article/know-getting-good-aba/
  5. https://psychcentral.com/blog/childhood-behavioral/2019/07/why-i-went-from-loving-aba-therapy-to-hating-it#1
steven zauderer

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

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